Skip to main content

At the Comptroller debate, Yassky's contradiction on AY

The Comptroller debate sponsored by CNG and Brooklyn Independent Television is now online, and it's worth a look, especially Council Member David Yassky's critical-but-supportive answer to an Atlantic Yards question.

(Here's some more cursory print coverage, which said that City Council Members Yassky and John Liu "spoke out more adamantly against the project;" actually, while they were critical, they don't fundamentally oppose the project.)

At about 21:40, moderator Brian Vines raised a question about Atlantic Yards, noting that people worry that "we might end up with a giant hole in the middle of Brooklyn." He asked, "If Bruce Ratner were to ask you for more government assistance to jump-start this project, or for a loan that's government-guaranteed, would you consider it?"

"No way," responded Yassky. "Not only shouldn't that project get more taxpayer money, they should give back the taxpayer money they've got already. The developers of that project already got $40 million of your money, of taxpayer dollars, for a project that so far hasn't gone anywhere, and it shouldn't be built with taxpayer money at all."

(I believe the figure is much higher than $40 million.)

"It is outrageous, the MTA, I went and testified against the MTA doing this. One day they raise the fare, by 25 cents, and two weeks later, they give another $80 million in subsidy to the private developer of this project. They had agreed that the developer would pay $100 million for the right to build there. They said: don't worry, you can just give us $20 million, and you'll pay the other $80 million, maybe later, some time, who knows when. That is such an affront to the men and women of New York City who have to pay to get on the subway."

Actually, that's not a gift of $80 million, given that the $20 million covers less than one-third of the railyard, though it certainly offers Forest City Ratner a significant financial advantage. More importantly, the deal allows the developer to save at least $100 million on a replacement railyard.

Yassky's contradiction

"The project should not be built with taxpayer money," Yassky continued, as if ignoring the $305 million in direct subsidies already pledged and a series of tax breaks and other advantages. "I've been fighting to get a right-sized project that fits within the context of Central Brooklyn, the basically brownstone neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights. There is a good project in there, but it should be be right-sized. And it should not built with taxpayer money."

But the only way Forest City Ratner would build it is with taxpayer money, and a "right-sized project" might require more subsidies. Still, Yassky thinks it's a "good project," so he's been unwilling to challenge such things as the state's dubious finding of blight.

(Also, at about 12 minutes in, listen for Yassky's gratuitous reference to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's summer concert series. Markowitz has endorsed Yassky.)

Project supporters

City Council Member Melinda Katz said no to more subsidies, but quickly segued to talk about jobs and stalled projects but basically ignored Atlantic Yards.

City Council David Weprin seemed somewhat uninformed, suggesting, "if you're talking about tax-exempt bonds, it could be a win-win." While he said he wouldn't support subsidies other than a federal tax exemption," he seemed unaware of the existing subsidies.

Liu threads the needle

City Council Member Liu offered an "adamant no" to more subsidies, saying that the project "has promised the stars... and so far has delivered very, very little for the communities. Even though we have seen hundreds of people taken out of their homes. It is a shame."

Hold on. The hundreds of people were not "taken out" of their homes; some left somewhat reluctantly, others left more reluctantly. Many residential owners got a pretty good deal--if they accepted a gag order--while many residential renters did not.

Liu said he wanted to hold the administration and the developer--on AY and other projects--accountable to the promises of jobs and housing.

If so, maybe he should be looking more closely at the housing promises for AY. Like Yassky, Liu offered critical words but not a fundamental critique.

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…