Skip to main content

FCR was evasive on open space, Olin's role, bridge openings, plausible timetable, so the state should be answering these questions

(This is one in an irregular series of articles about issues that a State Senate committee might address when it holds a hearing on Atlantic Yards.)

Let's look back at some not-so-transparent responses from Forest City Ratner to community concerns, and consider that the Empire State Development Corporation, not the developer, should be answering such questions.

Timetable issues

In a letter sent December 31 of last year, BrooklynSpeaks asked Gov. David Paterson to make available "current expected and worst-case construction timelines and release updated construction schedules."

The state has not done so yet.

Remember, the State Funding Agreement includes no timetable for Phase 2. None.

In a response to Assemblyman Jim Brennan, FCR's Maryanne Gilmartin wrote that the developer "fully intends to build out the project in approximately ten years consistent with the schedule set forth in EIS [environmental impact statement] subject to financing and market conditions (albeit with a delayed start)."

Doesn't that mean, simply, that "we control the pace," as parent Forest City Enterprises claimed at a conference last year? How does the ESDC feel about that?

Impact of litigation?

Forest City and the state claim that litigation stopped work at the site, including at the partly-demolished Carlton Avenue Bridge.

However, as I've noted more than once, then-FCR executive Jim Stuckey said in a 2007 sworn affidavit (and seconded in 2008 by his successor, Gilmartin):
FCRC’s construction schedule has been carefully drawn to allow the arena to be ready for the 2009-10 season by commencing work now on vacant properties that are owned by FCRC, the MTA and the City, with work on properties that are owned or occupied by other parties deferred until the pending judicial challenges to the Project have proceeded to a point where ESDC is in a position to actually use its powers of eminent domain to acquire title to and possession of those properties.

Does the ESDC really believe Forest City Ratner?

Buffer around the arena?

Community Board 8 raised concerns about one rather than four towers serving as a buffer to the arena, and FCR's Scott Cantone responded last July:
In the event that any of the development sites that surround the Arena (Buildings 1-4) are not in construction by the time that the Arena open, FCRC will create temporary public open spaces between the Arena and the surrounding streets; however, we anticipate that construction of Phase 1 will be complete or underway at the time of the Arena opening.

Is that prediction still plausible?

New open space

CB 8 asked if there'd be any open space added to the project in Phase 1 to compensate for the loss of the arena roof as open space.

Cantone responded:
As noted above, in the event that a development site on the Arena Block is not in construction or needed for other project purposes by the time the Arena is completed, FCRC will create temporary open spaces that will persist until such site is needed for development or construction activities.

Actually, Cantone first said that open space would be created if a development site is “in construction” but then added a broad qualifier: “needed for other project purposes.” What does the ESDC think?

Laurie Olin's role

Along with starchitect Frank Gehry, the distinguished landscape architect Laurie Olin helped sell the project in presentations to the press and in promotional material. Gehry's role has receded, if not faded completely.

What about Olin? Forest City suggested last October that he's on sabbatical of some sort, but Olin's own words were in the past tense. What does the ESDC think?

If Gehry has been supplanted by the firm Ellerbe Becket, as signs suggest, is there a lesser-known (but still quite capable) landscape architect now in the mix?

Both bridges open?

CB 8 asked if the Carlton Avenue and 6th Avenue bridges would be complete and open when the arena is opened.

Cantone responded:
Both the Carlton Avenue and the 6th Avenue bridges are anticipated to be open when the Arena opens.

An ESDC spokesman told me in November 2007, “Forest City Ratner tells us that while the arena might be able to open without the bridge in operation, the goal is to have the bridge open in coordination with the arena's opening."

Will the state let FCR's interest trump public safety? Who's in charge?

Outreach issues

BrooklynSpeaks also asked that Paterson require Forest City Ratner and ESDC "to involve the community and its elected representatives with public forums and outreach" regarding construction mitigations; street closures, traffic flow, and parking issues; and safety and security problems fostered by the loss of business and residential activity.

That certainly hasn't happened yet--but, then again, not too much has happened.

Jobs

Cantone told CB 8 that "Phase 1 will generate over 3000 new, permanent jobs."

Oh, really? Do either FCR or the ESDC have current calculations?

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…

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…

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…