Skip to main content

Will the Times comment on Ratner's blatant bailout bid? Based on past performance, no

Will the New York Times editorialize against the private bailout Forest City Ratner apparently seeks, deploying federal stimulus funds to complete the new railyard the developer had committed to build?

It's doubtful, given the newspaper's steady path from criticizing AY subsidies to studious silence, even though a stimulus for Atlantic Yards is so contentious that it's drawn criticism from not only Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn but also BrooklynSpeaks and the New York Public Interest Research Group's Straphangers Campaign.

But maybe the news desk, if it truly believes in small-d democracy, will do some more reporting.

Inconsistent silence

Nearly two years ago, I pointed to the Times's inconsistency on public subsidies for Atlantic Yards. In a 3/27/05 editorial, the Times opposed having the city and state each contributing $100 million to support the project:
That’s unnecessary: Mr. Ratner should pay his own way.

In an 11/27/05 editorial, the Times reiterated its position:
There is no reason to expect taxpayer money to be used to help fund a profit-making real estate venture like this one; those costs should be absorbed by the builder.

In an 8/6/06 editorial, the Times backed off somewhat, targeting only a portion of the $200 million then committed in public funds:
Some $40 million, for example, is for land acquisition for the arena, which should be a developer expense. The project may require the city to build more classrooms, expand sewer and water services and provide more police on game days. It is up to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration to demand from the developer every reasonable contribution to defray these extra expenses.


And then, silence

After that, the Times was silent. The newspaper failed to to comment on the doubling of the city's commitment, to $205 million.

The Times has comment on the developer's efforts, on multiple fronts, to increase cash flow through delaying obligations and accelerating the delivery of subsidies.

Now, the Times faces a bigger test.

"The spirit of the Times"

We have to remember that the Times's editorial voice depends fundamentally on its publisher, who just might be wary of antagonizing the developer that joined with the New York Times Company to build the new Times Tower.

I wrote 2/23/08, citing an interview with Editorial Board Member Carolyn Curiel, the main writer of editorials on local issues.

"Our goal is to reflect the spirit of the Times and the opinion of the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.," she explained. "And a lot of it is driven by the news pages, but we don't consult with the news pages... It's not a democracy. Consensus is often arrived at, sure, but not always.... There is something of a position being hammered out at the table."

"Again, we're not a democracy," she affirmed. "We are reasoned, in how we come to opinion. But no, it's not a democracy; it's reflective of the spirit of the Times."

After Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim Helu took a significant stake in the times, former editorial writer Andres Martinez commented last month:
But from now on, any Times utterances on Mexico will now be interpreted, fairly or not, through the prism of Slim's stake in the company.

The same goes for editorials about (or avoiding) Forest City Ratner.

Time for Times city staff to step up?

New York magazine's Chris Smith, in a 1/24/09 article headlined The Zany Adventures of (Senator) Caroline Kennedy, suggested that the Times reporters had stepped up:
Kennedy also smacked headlong into a newly emboldened Times city staff. “We’ve grown a pair of balls, and I’m amazingly proud of the paper,” says a Times reporter. “The turning point was the editorial page’s rolling over for Bloomberg on erasing term limits. The reaction from the reporters and editors is that we’re the last line of defense—we’ve got to hold the line.” Not for or against any particular politician, that is, but to stand up for small-d democracy. After inflating her candidacy by making her simple declaration of interest in the job the lead story of the day, they compensated by hitting her hard.

Ok, but the coverage of this issue on the CityRoom blog, with an obligatory comment from AY uber-opponent Daniel Goldstein, doesn't cut it.

The effort to get Atlantic Yards a federal bailout is, to many, a blatant perversion of the goals of the stimulus program.

The coverage should be in depth, and in print.

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…