Skip to main content

WSJ on AY: "A Hole Grows in Brooklyn"

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed today about Atlantic Yards, headlined A Hole Grows in Brooklyn, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Julia Vitullo-Martin argues, not unpredictably for the newspaper and author, that the private market should have been allowed to do its work.

She writes:
Now, more than five years later, what's been brought to Brooklyn is a very large hole in the ground and a project that is coming to symbolize why large government projects can be riskier than allowing local residents to fix up their own communities.


Her conclusion:
The ill-fated project in Brooklyn reflects a breakdown of the state and city's strategy of favoring big-government, centrally supported, highly subsidized projects over the kind of small, privately funded, unsubsidized, incremental development that was already occurring in Prospect Heights, as the area is officially known.

Government as catalyst

I think Vitullo-Martin gets the big picture right--and appreciate the citation of AYR in her piece--but I wish she'd further noted the importance of government action as a catalyst. For the blocks in Prospect Heights below the Vanderbilt Yard, conversions of former manufacturing buildings into housing required spot rezonings.

A wholesale rezoning would've been necessary for both those blocks, and the railyards, to catalyze development. And some measure of subsidy would've been necessary to jump-start development over the railyards.

The difference would've been that a subsidy to build a deck over the railyards could've been announced before a single bidder had been selected, as with AY, and instead could've spurred development in multiple parcels with multiple bidders, as in the proposed UNITY Plan.

As I wrote in December 2006, the Empire State Development Corporation, in a not credible statement, contended that, without Atlantic Yards, there would have been no redevelopment in the project site.

The issue of blight

Vitullo-Martin touches on an important contradiction:
It seems that smaller scale redevelopment wasn't happening fast enough for government officials, eager to jump-start Brooklyn's economy. They leapt to support the developer's contention that the neighborhood was blighted, and that its property owners were therefore vulnerable to the state's exercise of eminent domain.

Since then, she notes, more blight has been created.

Indeed, the role of the private market and new investors suggests--as could have been mentioned in a longer piece--that Prospect Heights is very different from other neighborhoods designated as blighted, where (in the words of academic Lynne Sagalyn) "the fabric of a community is shot to hell."

Restoring health?

She concludes:
If Mr. Ratner can restart the project, he may be able to restore some health to the neighborhood. If not, Atlantic Yards will go down as a massive, government-backed renewal project that destroyed the neighborhood it was intended to save.


I think that depends on what timeline you choose and what you mean by "health." Even if the project is restarted, there would be many, many years of interim surface parking on the project site, for example. And there's no timetable for Phase 2.

A couple of quibbles

The op-ed opens:
In December 2003, Mayor Michael Bloomberg thought he had a slam dunk. He along with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and developer Bruce Ratner struck a deal for a $4.3 billion development project that was to remake downtown Brooklyn by building expansive residential and retail space, and a gleaming new $950 million arena that would bring the New Jersey Nets to the borough.

When Atlantic Yards was announced, it was to cost $2.5 billion, with a $435 million arena. When the project was approved in December 2006, it was to cost $4 billion, with a $637.2 million arena. The $950 million arena price tag was not announced until March 2008. And now Forest City Ratner is apparently aiming to cut the price nearly in half.

Also, the column states:
The arena was to be built on a deck over the old Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) yards...

As noted lower in the column, activist Daniel Goldstein's "condo stands smack in the middle of the proposed arena site," which indicates that the arena obviously would extend to blocks below the railyards. If the arena plan had been confined to public property, there would have been no need to pursue eminent domain.

Also, the column states that Ratner "won support" of ACORN and "courted [influential African-American] activists." That's not untrue, but it leaves out the benefit to groups like ACORN, which would manage the affordable housing (and has since been bailed out) by the developer. Also, several signatories of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) have received direct funding from the developer, though CBA signatories elsewhere refuse such funding.

Also, Vitullo-Martin writes:
The projected December 2008 ground-breaking for the arena came and went without a shovel hitting the dirt. The chances that the Nets will be playing in Brooklyn for the 2009-10 season, as promised, are nil.

This may have been written some months ago, since developer Forest City Ratner has since projected a groundbreaking this year and promises an arena opening in 2011 (which I think is doubtful).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

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…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

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…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…