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Showing posts from September, 2008

Star-Ledger: Goldman Sachs mum on AY arena financing

From the Newark Star-Ledger tonight:
Four months ago, Goldman Sachs assured all financing would be in place for a $950 million professional basketball arena in Brooklyn by today.

Bruce Ratner, owner of the New Jersey Nets and developer of the ambitious, $4 billion Atlantic Yards project, said he was "inches away from completing the deal."

That was before prestigious investment firms started to fall and credit markets went into full-scale panic, triggering a financial crisis on Wall Street unseen since the Great Depression.

Tuesday, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs offered only a "no comment" when asked about the financing for the nearly $950 million arena, fueling persistent doubts about the viability of Ratner's plan, which has been systematically downscaled and delayed since it was first rolled out more than four years ago.

Tax-exempt bonds?

But the big question, as a lawyer quoted by the newspaper says, is whether tax-exempt financing will be available, since it rema…

Arena, 2012? The Nets likely have four more seasons in New Jersey

Bruce Ratner admitted yesterday that a state appeals court decision not to dismiss the pending eminent domain lawsuit "may" delay an announced December groundbreaking for the Atlantic Yards arena by six months. It almost certainly will do so--and could delay it even longer.

That means that the long-promised 2010 arena opening, already discredited by Ratner's own words (after promises of openings in previous years went by the wayside), is impossible.

Also, though Ratner previously told investors the arena would open in 2011, it's highly unlikely the arena would open that year. An early 2012 opening seems more likely. Given the difficulty of moving a team in mid-season, that suggests, in the best-case scenario, that the New Jersey Nets would not become the Brooklyn Nets until the fall of 2012.

That means four more seasons in the creaky Meadowlands--2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12--unless there's a move, say, to Newark.

Looking at the timetable

Let's do the m…

Groundbreaking, 2008? Eminent domain case survives motion to dismiss; hearing no sooner than March

The chances for anything more than a faux Atlantic Yards groundbreaking in 2008 have now plummeted, after an attempt by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to short-circuit the pending state eminent domain case has been denied by an appellate court. That means an oral argument would occur no sooner than March, with a decision some months after that.

The decision denying the ESDC's motion to dismiss, apparently on procedural grounds, doesn’t give the plaintiffs the edge in a long-shot case similar to the one that already failed in federal court, which was seen as more hospitable to such a challenge. But it does undermine the unrealistic timetable regularly promoted by developer Forest City Ratner and complicates the arena naming rights deal with Barclays Capital.

FCR has pledged multiple times that a groundbreaking would take place in November or December, notwithstanding the likelihood that pending legal cases and the unavailability so far of tax-exempt bonds would jeopa…

"Economic engine"? Markowitz repeats AY boilerplate, fails to check facts

It was inevitable, wasn’t it, that Atlantic Yards boosters like Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz would promote the project as a solution to the current economic downturn. It’s not inevitable, however, to take their rhetoric at face value.

(No Land Grab's Lumi Rolley suggests Markowitz is channeling "Drill baby drill" into "Build baby build.")

The Courier-Life reported this week, in an article headlined, not without wit, "The market be damned!":
"The recent drop in the stock market and weakening of the American economy underscores the importance of moving ahead with projects like Atlantic Yards-which will not only create union jobs and affordable housing in Downtown Brooklyn, but also represents the kind of investment magnet that Brooklyn and New York City need right now," said Markowitz.
"It is critical that in the next few years, we plan for Brooklyn and New York City's future, and a catalyst for job creation and growth like …

In tale of Giuliani influence, insight into the flexibility in size of affordable housing units

Yesterday, the New York Times reported on a new blog, Rudy Veritas, by Rudy Giuliani's ex-aide, Russell Harding, who ran the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and just happens to be a felon (embezzlement, child porn) recently released from prison.

One of the tales, which so far can't be independently verified, regards Harding's role in getting Judith Nathan, the girlfriend and future wife of the still-married Giuliani, an Upper East Side apartment at below-market rent. Harding's post is interesting not merely because of the favor offered, but in the insight into how much flexibility the city allows regarding the size of apartments designated as affordable housing.

Market-rate units are bigger

Harding's tale involves the 80/20 program, involving 80% market-rate units and 20% low-income units, which more closely resembles Forest City Ratner's project at 80 DeKalb Avenue, rather than the Atlantic Yards project, for which the rental towers--though no…

Does AY "exist"? State judge dismisses lawsuit that challenged AY deadline and sought new hearing

A “smaller” lawsuit involving the Atlantic Yards project has been dismissed by a State Supreme Court justice, who rejected charges by tenants in two AY footprint buildings that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is violating a provision of state law that requires disposition of properties within a decade and should hold another hearing because the project has changed considerably.

As I wrote, during a hearing on the case in June, Justice Jane Solomon seemed skeptical of the main thrust of the argument made by attorney George Locker, who has filed two previous (and unsuccessful) cases on behalf of the 13 tenants, who live in two Forest City Ratner-owned buildings on Dean and Pacific streets. Her five-page decision (PDF) gave no credence to the petitioners’ claims, despite significant public doubts about the project’s timetables. Locker said an appeal would be filed.

(Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn has organized and largely funded two other pending cases, one challenging the …

The Brooklyn Paper says Markowitz "doth protest too much"

The Brooklyn Paper, following up on my article about Borough President Marty Markowitz's grievances about press coverage, editorializes that the BP "doth protest too much." Indeed, the Paper makes a strong case--even more than I did--challenging Markowitz's claims that the press has been too hard on him.

The newspaper cites four recent contracts to his “Best of Brooklyn” charity and that "conveniently amount to $24,999 each"--just short of triggering city oversight. Also cited is Markowitz's receipt of $900,000 from the mayor's office for his concert series and his receipt of donations from Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

The Brooklyn Paper also asks why Markowitz won't discuss "the inner workings of the deal he has with the Courier-Life newspaper chain to publish his “Brooklyn!!” promotional publication. A Brooklyn Paper review discovered that publicity and printing are a huge part of Borough Hall’s discretionary budget — costs …

The Jane Jacobs Medals, Robert Moses, and the view beyond “Death and Life”

The awarding of the second annual Jane Jacobs Medals on September 8, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, along with guest speaker Robert Caro, author of The Power Broker, prompted another inevitable round of blinkered debate--see the New York Times's CityRoom blog--about whether the stereotypical Jacobs approach or the Robert Moses approach is the solution to the city’s problems.

That dichotomy was echoed in a Times City Section profile the following Sunday about author Arthur Nersesian, who describes his conflict with his girlfriend:
“On the one hand, I see the great phallic master builder and she’s like, ‘No, it’s all about Jane Jacobs, the low-scale community builder,’” he said. “Maybe it really is a boy-girl thing. I don’t know.”

In comments on the CityRoom blog, some suggested we need a Moses to cut through NIMBYism. However, as Benjamin Hemric, a prolific commentator on Jacobs (including on this blog) observed, Jacobs’ work was much more about understanding cities and econ…

Markowitz's grievance against the press, his questionable charity, and the real failure of the BP's office

At the end of 2006, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz sat down for a memorable interview with the Brooklyn Paper and, as I wrote, was sometimes pensive and prideful about Atlantic Yards but more frequently combative and strident.

The thin-skinned BP has had even more reason to be exercised in recent months, as the New York Post has challenged the legitimacy of the borough presidency and the New York Daily News has uncovered Markowitz’s dubious practice of relying on an in-house charity to raise funds from supporters--including developer Forest City Ratner--who otherwise wouldn’t be able to contribute such sums to his office or campaign. The Brooklyn Paper uncovered further evidence of how six-figure FCR contributions fuel Markowitz's popular concert series.

(Photo of Markowitz welcoming NASA Astronaut Garrett Reisman, a Houston resident who has relatives in Brooklyn, to Borough Hall.)

Markowitz and defenders have cited the civic nature of the programs supported by his Best o…

Reducing Noticing New York’s Amanda Burden post to a Tweet

Noticing New York's Should a Teardrop be Shed- Considering the Burden? clocks in at 6663 words, which makes AYR, by comparison, seem concise.

Michael D.D. White's analysis of City Planning Commission Chairperson Amanda Burden is worth a read, but if you don't have the time, consider that the microblogging service Twitter limits posts (aka Tweets) to 140 characters.

A. Burden. Worked on BPC. Worried about BPC teardrop park, based on superblock. Park < AY superblock. Burden likes AY. Sincere? Prob. not.

Is AY a game of charades, as per DDDB? Maybe, but the game isn't over

Announcing Atlantic Yards: The $4 Billion Game of Charades, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn has a good array of reasons to argue that Atlantic Yards "isn't gonna happen." I'd agree that it certainly won't happen in the way promised, but that doesn't mean that the project can't move forward in some way.

DDDB says the planned "ground breaking" in December is "absurd, and impossible, unless they plan some nonsense ribbon cutting kabuki of shovels and fanfare signifying nothing meaningful about actually constructing their arena and skyscrapers." Yes, there's an outside chance current legal challenges will be dismissed by then, but other cases could be filed.

Other factors cited by DDDB, including the current financial crisis, credit market, and office vacancy rate, certainly cast a shadow over parts of the project, notably the planned office tower. An "extremely skeptical State Court judicial panel" included two of five judg…

Brodsky: "nothing like professional sports to make public people nutty"

Probably the money quote at the Congressional hearing held last Thursday by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) on Yankee Stadium financing came from Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), who last week issued a tough report on the stadium deal.

"[T]here is nothing like professional sports to make public people nutty," Brodsky declared, aiming to explain why private sports teams get tax breaks and subsidies they don't deserve.

(Given that far more ink has been devoted to gushing over last days of the current Yankee Stadium than the apparent shenanigans behind its replacement, I'd say that the press is just as "nutty.")

A threat to leave?

The Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Kucinich, held a hearing called “Gaming the Tax Code: Public Subsidies, Private Profits, and Big League Sports in New York”. Brodsky was questioned by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who reflected "we built two stadiums" in Baltim…