Skip to main content

Post: Feeling pressure (?), Markowitz pulls out of China trip, even though it was OK'd by the Conflicts of Interests Board

Maybe Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz just didn't want to answer questions posed earlier today by this blog.

The New York Post reports, in Markowitz pulls out of controversial China trip to benefit Nets arena:
Bowing to pressure fueled in part by a Post story last week, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz confirmed today that he’s pulling out of an all-expenses-paid trip to China.
Surely the pressure was fueled in part by the Post, but I have to think Atlantic Yards Report had a larger impact. And, actually, the trip would not benefit the Nets arena--that's the hype--but rather developer Forest City Ratner's search for low-cost financing for the railyard it's obligated to build.

The article notes that Markowitz was not, in fact, stymied by the New York City Conflicts of Interests Board:
He had planned to take the weeklong 7,000-mile trip this month to help his longtime pal -- developer Bruce Ratner -- peddle green cards to rich foreigners in exchange for investing in Ratner's cash-poor Atlantic Yards project.

The Beep won’t be accompanying Ratner, Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Development Corp., and other officials on the trip -- even though the city Conflict of Interest Board earlier today green-lighted the trip for Markowitz by ruling it wouldn’t violate city ethics laws.
Did today's revelations drive decision?

So why did Markowitz drop out of the trip?
Markowitz through a spokesman denied caving in to heavy criticism from project critics, including postings today by the blog Atlantic Yards Report claiming Ratner and his contingent have over-hyped the projects benefits -- such as job estimates -- to sway potential Chinese investors. The blog was also the first to report about the planned trip last week.

Btw, taxpayers will pay for Davidson's trip, while Markowitz's trip was to be funded by the New York City Regional Center, the private company promoting the investment in exchange for green cards.

He was unwilling to answer questions when I approached him on September 29. Earlier today, I called the willingness to flack green cards without answering questions an "abdication of government."

(Photo by Tracy Collins)

AYR "claims"

According to the Post, I am "claiming Ratner and his contingent have over-hyped the projects benefits -- such as job estimates -- to sway potential Chinese investors."

Actually, I'm not claiming that they've over-hyped benefits. I'm proving it.

Any promotion that uses a 2004 quote from Sen. Chuck Schumer about 10,000 office jobs--office jobs destined for no-longer-planned office towers--is an over-hyped promotion. There's no debate about that.

Comments

  1. So...uhm, why isn't Markowitz going? Presumably he doesn't think there was anything wrong with him going, right?

    ReplyDelete
  2. How do we know that city Conflict of Interest Board actually ruled that Markowitz’s trip wouldn’t violate city ethics laws as reported by the Post? What if the board (if it ruled at all) just handled the question put to it with the standard bureaucratic tactic of a self-protective punt: Perhaps the Conflict of Interest Board carefully couched their opinion saying the trip was permissible only “if participation of the Chinese investors in the project will provide REAL (as opposed to over-hyped) benefits for the U.S., Brooklyn and New York public.”

    In theory the same precept that the U.S. and New York public should be actually and truly benefitted should apply in determining the propriety of allowing Peter Davidson, the executive director of the Empire State Development Corp., (and any other public officials) going along at the trip at taxpayer expense.* Theoretically, that benefit should be a benefit ESDC was statutorily set up to provide, but maybe Mr. Davidson is not going to China in his ESDC capacity: Maybe he is going in his capacity as a board member** of the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation since what he is selling the Chinese obviously involves a rather absurd gamble.

    * Marty Markowitz is subject to City ethics laws and Peter Davidson and ESDC officials who accompany him are subject to New York State ethics laws. They are in technical ways different but I wouldn’t split hairs on the applicability of this precept.

    ** For the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation board see:
    http://www.nycotb.com/newnycotb/AboutUs/BoardofDirectors/tabid/207/Default.aspx

    Michael D. D. White
    Noticing New York
    http://noticingnewyork.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think Marty should be commended for passing up this trip. He's been the subject of much criticism for his support of Atlantic Yards. Finally, he is backing off from peddling deals that seem predicated on lies. I would wish that Marty would see this move as a first step in restoring his badly damaged credibility as well as the reputation of the borough he represents.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…