Skip to main content

Catching up on the ACORN story: Brian Lehrer, Politico, City Room

The ACORN story and Atlantic Yards, including my role, got three mentions today in the media, and all needed some corrections.

Brian Lehrer Show

First there was the Brian Lehrer Show, on WNYC, ACORN by Any Other Name.

To quote the summary from No Land Grab:

City Hall editor Edward-Isaac Dovere, and Politico.com senior political writer Ben Smith join Brian Lehrer to discuss the reorganization of New York ACORN, which is now calling itself New York Communities for Change. The inevitable Atlantic Yards question comes up around the 9:40 mark.

Brian Lehrer: And recently, in New York, it wasn't only the right that hated ACORN, it was opponents of the Atlantic Yards project.

Ben Smith: They were among the first yesterday to sort of notice this transformation.

BL: And does this affect their deal with the Atlantic Yards developer to take a lot of money from them to administer community benefits agreements?

BS: Now that is a great question. I have not seen anywhere that Ratner has renegotiated with them. I suspect it gets Bruce Ratner off the hook in terms of even having any responsibility to any group. His community benefits agreements were always negotiated privately with the lowest bidder, essentially, which happened to be ACORN. And because it was a private agreement I don't really see whether Ratner is bound by it at all.



NoLandGrab: Hate ACORN? No. Have big problems with ACORN providing critical political cover for a terrible project in return for a contract — and a bailout? Yes.

My comments

I commented on the web site, as follows:
Ben Smith, following up on Brian Lehrer's casual statement about "Atlantic Yards opponents" hating ACORN, commented that "they were among the first to sort of notice yesterday this transformation."

"Sort of notice" is a euphemism for a well-researched journalistic blog post that laid out several of the changes and fundraising plans well before the report in City Hall News by Edward-Isaac Dovere.

Compare my coverage yesterday to Ben Smith's coverage yesterday.

Funny--today I'm merely an "Atlantic Yards opponent," but when I was on Brian Lehrer's TV show last June, I was an "investigative journalist."

I don't hate ACORN; however, having watched their role in the Atlantic Yards project (which they are contractually obligated to support), I've grown increasingly skeptical.

Lehrer asked if the change would affect ACORN's deal "with the Atlantic Yards developer" for the Community Benefits Agreement. Smith speculated that it might be over. Actually, that's unlikely.

Regarding the affordable housing, the issue is less ACORN but the Development Agreement that you haven't reported on. Forest City Ratner is still supposed to build 2250 units of affordable housing, but the deadline is 25 years, not ten, the penalties for individual building delays are modest, and an Affordable Housing Subsidy Unavailability can be claimed for up to eight one-year periods.

Nor have you reported on Forest City Ratner's $1.5 million bailout of national ACORN.
In Politico

Smith followed up in Politico:
This morning, WNYC's Brian Lehrer asked me what would become of one of ACORN's most prominent New York projects, a "community benefits agreement" the group signed with a real estate developer seeking political support for a huge, subsidized project in Brooklyn.

A blogger opposed to the project, which would include a basketball arena for the Nets, speculated today that the agreement with Forest City Ratner over the Atlantic Yards could transfer to the national group. But an official at the company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the developer continues to work with what he sees as New York's renamed, but otherwise unchanged, ACORN.

"The people that we deal with still exist," said the Forest City official, noting that Jon Kest, ACORN's top official, is now a key player at the new New York Communities for Change, and that the developer will work with that new group.

"It’s ACORN by a different name — all the players are the same," the official said.

My comment:
Despite Ben Smith's account, I didn't speculate that the affordable housing agreement could *transfer* to national ACORN. I wrote that, despite the role of New York ACORN in the Atlantic Yards project, the MOU seems to refer to national ACORN rather than NY ACORN. (Is it speculation to look at contract language?)

But I acknowledged it was ambiguous, given the obvious co-mingling of national and local.

[Then I pointed out the larger issues of the Development Agreement and the FCR bailout.]

PS. Smith disses me (without naming me) as a "blogger opposed to the project." I've been a journalist for a long time. Yes, I'm a critic of the project, and that's based on a lot of research. (There's a long tradition of professional journalism that's not nonpartisan.) And sometimes I'm critical of project opponents.
And in CityRoom

The Times's CityRoom blog picked up on the story:
The Atlantic Yards Report was among the first to notice, early Monday morning, the rebranding effort. New York Acorn had been engaged in the effort to include moderately priced housing as part of the Brooklyn renovation project.

I pointed out that Atlantic Yards is decidedly *not* a renovation project. Everything on the site would be demolished. By contrast, the company behind it does do some renovation.

And again I pointed out that the Times has failed to cover the Development Agreement.

The Times stonewalls on a correction re ACORN coverage

Also see Brad Friedman's comment about the Times's coverage of the "pimp" sting and Friedman's inability--despite mountains of evidence--to get the Times's Public Editor to recommend a correction.

Comments

  1. I'm happy you don't let up Norman, Thanks for the clear reporting.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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…