Skip to main content

Markowitz: "Please, please, please" get AY started (because he'd never support anything not in the interests of Brooklyn)

No elected official, not even state Senator Carl Kruger, showed up at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Finance Committee meeting or board meeting last month to testify in favor of Atlantic Yards.

The only elected official to offer pro-project views was Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who sent Chief of Staff Carlo Scissura, who presented several questionable arguments.

One of the lines was so classic Markowitz that it deserves its own excerpt.



"As we all know, the Borough President would never support anything that is not in the interests of all of Brooklyn and all Brooklynites," Scissura declared.

He wouldn't? Have the interests of Brooklyn been distilled into the consciousness of one enlightened BP? Can they be?

The testimony



"I'm here to here to urge all of you to vote yes for this important proposal. The Atlantic Yards project is one of the most ambitious projects ever to be considered in the city of New York and especially in the city of Brooklyn," Scissura declared. "And though it has faced several years of challenges during the approval process, we are confident that when it's completed, it will serve as a model for all cities in the United States. Atlantic Yards is the type of development that Brooklyn needs now; it needs the affordable housing, it needs the union jobs, it needs the permanent jobs."

Serve as a model? Is that why Mayor Mike Bloomberg won't even mention it on his campaign web site or why Kent Barwick of the Municipal Art Society suggested AY might be "this generation's Penn Station"?

National stage

Scissura continued, "It needs Brooklyn to be put on a national stage, and with having the Nets come into Brooklyn, that will do so."

Well, yes, a sports team is a national stage, but Brooklyn's doing pretty well already, as Markowitz is quick to remind us.

Note this 5/11/09 press release in which the BP proclaims that "Lonely Planet, which named Brooklyn one of the world's 'hottest destinations' in 2007, chose it to be one of the first pullout mini guides in its inaugural, international Lonely Planet Magazine in December, 2008, alongside Edinburgh, Scotland and Singapore."

Empty site?

Scissura then offered a canard: "For more than 100 years, the footprint where Atlantic Yards will be built--is planning to be built--has been an empty railroad yard."

No, it hasn't. First, the Vanderbilt Yard occupies less than 40% of the site, which also includes buildings that served as factories, housing, and commercial space. The Borough President's Office should know better.

Second, rather than an empty railroad yard, it has been a working yard, used to store and service trains. It was just never economically feasible to build a deck. As land became scarce and more valuable, building over the railyards finally became viable, but before Forest City Ratner's proposal, there was never any attempt to market the "empty railroad yard," as a Department of City Planning official acknowledged.

New city center

Scissura continued, "This is a historic opportunity to join many neighborhoods of Brooklyn, to create a city center for all of Brooklyn, and for all of New York City to enjoy."

A city center? With eight acres of open space for 15,000 new residents? Is the open space at Stuyvesant Town a city center for all to enjoy? The open space would come only in Phase 2; by contrast, as Anne Schwartz wrote in Gotham Gazette, at Battery Park City the open space came first.

As for an arena, it would be a venue for ticketholders, not a public park. Is Madison Square Garden a city center for all to enjoy, or just those who can pay?

Timing issues

Scissura continued, "it is the perfect location to build this. It is your duty to ensure that this vote is yes, that work begins this year, that people can be put to work."

Translation: It is your duty to ensure that the deal proceeds so that Forest City Ratner can get tax-exempt bonds issued by the approaching December 31 deadline.

Need for jobs

Scissura continued, "Yesterday's job numbers were startling: almost ten percent of Brooklynitse are out of work. Imagine what this project will do over ten years to put people back to work, to give union jobs."

Yes, any large construction project creates jobs and yes, people need jobs. At the same time, public officials have the obligation to weigh the cost of creating jobs against other alternatives. And the MTA is not a job-creation agency but is supposed to seek the best value for its property to ensure a robust transit system for all New Yorkers.

New tax revenues

Scissura then started on some fuzzy math: "Atlantic Yards will create billions of dollars in tax revenue over the next decades. And I think as we look at this proposal, even though it's a little less than what was previously anticipated, in the long run, the tax revenue that will be generated by Atlantic Yards will be incredible, for the city, for the state and of course, for Brooklyn."

Billions? That's questionable. After all, the New York City Independent Budget Office already estimates that the arena would be a money-loser for the city.

As for whether the proposal would be "a little less" than previously anticipated, Scissura might have mentioned that Forest City Ratner would save $100 million on the railyard it promised and get generous terms--$20 million down, the rest of the $80 million over 22 years, at 6.5% interest--to pay its obligation.

Incredible tax revenue? Markowitz sure can use that word when he describes a performer at his summer concert series, but this situation requires a little more precision.

Trust Markowitz

Then Scissura offered the money quote: "As we all know, the Borough President would never support anything that is not in the interests of all of Brooklyn and all Brooklynites."

Would a Borough President concerned about the best interests of the borough misleadingly declare, "For more than 100 years, the footprint has been an empty railroad yard"? Would he have said it had the testimony under oath?

Need for a venue

Scissura continued, "I'll give you another perfect example of why this project is important. There are many graduations of large high schools in Brooklyn that cannot take place in Brooklyn because there is no venue for them. Imagine what an arena like the Barclays Center will do for children, for high school sports, for teens, for everything. Why do Brooklynites have to travel everywhere and not have things go on in a borough of almost 2.6 million people?"

Well, it's unfortunate there's no venue in Brooklyn. But solving that problem with the world's most expensive arena--which wouldn't exactly come cheap, and with FCR's pledge to make the arena available to community groups deemed trivial by a judge--is like saying hunger pangs can be sated only by serving caviar.

At least Scissura didn't mention Hasidic weddings.

In closing

Scissura closed: "This is an important project. The Borough President urges all of you to vote yes on this, and to please, please, please, let's get this project moving."

What name did Scissura not pronounce? The biggest beneficiary: Forest City Ratner.

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…

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…

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…

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…