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Showing posts from July, 2010

What's missing in Phase 1? The Construction Coordination Center at Sixth Avenue

On the northeast side of Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue, three of five houses once destined for eminent domain and demolition still stand, a testament to changed arena block plans.

In the original Atlantic Yards plan, Forest City Ratner sought a 100-foot plot of land just east of Sixth Avenue, as I wrote in August 2006, for staging and temporary parking, before serving as the site for the last building constructed.

But a changed arena design, and an abandonment of any plan to build four surrounding towers in four years, means that the need for surface parking and staging is less.

Moreover, FCR and the Empire State Development Corporation avoid potential eminent domain cases against homeowners, and the developer gets to save cash flow by having condemnation for the project proceed in stages.

The lost Construction Coordination Center

Below, from the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), a now out-of-date graphic that identifies the site as a Construction Coordination …

At heart of Pollard's challenge to Senator Montgomery, charter schools (and big bucks from charter school proponents)

I got a mailing the other day from Mark Pollard, who's challenging 13-term incumbent state Senator Velmanette Montgomery in the 18th District, which includes Atlantic Yards.

What it doesn't say is that the contest is significantly about charter schools, given that charter school proponents from outside Brooklyn have contributed a large majority of his $87,385 war chest.

(The candidates allso differ on Atlantic Yards, but I didn't see any AY backers contributing to Pollard yet, other than $25 contributions from Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement Coalition and head of the potemkin Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, and her daughter Saadia. Hunley-Adossa last year challenged incumbent 35th District City Council Member Letitia James, a Montgomery ally.)

Mark Pollard Mailer 27 July

According to the two-page mailer, which doesn't mention Montgomery by name, attorney Pollard is running against the dysfunctional government in Albany, blaming t…

Wiggle room: In FEIS graphics, ESDC suggested Flatbush Ave. lane closures would be temporary, but text was ambiguous (& referred only to utility work)

So, did the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) study the impact on Flabush Avenue traffic of the need to build a lay-by lane for the arena and thus upgrade Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway vent structures?

On July 27, when I reported on the announcement of a "temporary" 17-month lane closure on Flatbush between Dean Street and Atlantic Avenue, I suggested no.

That morning, I asked the ESDC if it had been studied in the November 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) or the June 2009 Technical Memorandum and whether ESDC had documentation on the rationale for the change and estimates of its potential impact.

Yesterday morning, I got an answer, and it deserves a close look.

Essentially, the text of the ESDC documents left enough wiggle room for the closure currently planned, but the attached graphics indicated that Flatbush Avenue lane closures would be temporary.

The asterisk, however, is the FEIS mentioned only the impact of utility work, not the u…

Photos and video: construction work near Flatbush Avenue and subway

Excavation work on the arena block will come very close to the subway below Flatbush Avenue--remember, the arena wall would be less than seven feet away. Raul Rothblatt took some photos of ongoing work yesterday.





And here's his video, shot from the Sixth Avenue Bridge, looking west toward Flatbush.

Phone calls from Utah firm about Atlantic Yards: is Pacific Crest Research back? and is this about the Senate race or just AY p.r.?

It looks like the shadowy, Utah-based polling firm Pacific Crest Research (PCR) may be back and involved in tapping/shaping public opinion about Atlantic Yards.

From Brooklynian, selected comments:
just got off the phone with someone, based in utah, who peppered me with a lot of questions about the yards project, and whether i agree that forest city ratner's doing a great thing for the slope and the community as a whole. i assume ratner's paying for the survey since many of the questions seemed tilted in his favor.. but i had some free time, and it was a very cathartic experience....still, to be doing a survey like this, the developers must be really worried about something.I took the survey and it was obviously sponsored by Ratner. I told the guy that I really shouldn't be taking the survey as my husband used to work for FCR and says the affordable housing phase of the project ain't never gonna happen. I took the survey too and also think it was sponsored by Ratner. Whe…

Prokhorov on cover of Russian Forbes, spinning team purchase; in Letters page of USA Today, saluting LeBron James

The Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, principal owner of the New Jersey Nets, is on the cover of Forbes Russia’s August “Stars and Money ” issue, which contains a subtitle: “Mikhail Prokhorov and American Basketball: Who Will Be the Winner?”

Note that Prokhorov claims he bought the Nets for $200 million, which is inaccurate, as it refers only to the direct cash payment. As summarized by Sports Business Journal via NetsDaily in March: As reported, Prokhorov's Onexim Group has agreed to put down $200 million in cash; assume about $180 million in franchise debt from Forest City Enterprises, Bruce Ratner's parent company; eat $60 million in costs--including losses--sustained while the team remains in New Jersey; and purchase up to $106 million in junk bonds needed to finance Barclays Center infrastructure, for a total of around $550 million.In the end, Prokhorov put less money down, offering a $75.8 million loan rather than, as reported, buying $106 million in taxable bonds.

Legible version of the subway monitoring plan surfaces, shows arena wall less than 7' from subway; if vibrations get too intense, work must stop

How do you build an arena very close to six active subway lines?

Very, very carefully, apparently.

As a recently acquired document (excerpted at left; click to enlarge) shows, the foundation wall of the planned arena, at at the arena property line, would be less than seven feet from the wall of the IRT subway line, specifically the tracks for the 2 or 3 trains going north along Flatbush Avenue toward Manhattan.

That means some very careful monitoring is required, as described in plans first made public here.

Plans initially denied

On May 24, I wrote about a Subway Indemnity Agreement signed by Brooklyn Arena LLC and the New York City Transit Authority, not only must proceed "in a good and workmanlike manner" but also must be subject to a monitoring plan, thus protecting critical transit system assets.

That's crucial, because portions of subway tunnels next to the arena site were described in 2007 as in "critical condition" and required repair "in the immediate …

"Temporary Change of Traffic Pattern on Flatbush Avenue" means one lane will be closed at least 17 months; did ESDC bury the real reason for change?

The Empire State Development Corporation yesterday sent out a Community Notice (embedded below) announcing a "Temporary Change of Traffic Pattern on Flatbush Avenue" that will begin on August 1 and affect the area between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street, a western boundary of the Atlantic Yards project.

Temporary? It will last at least 17 months, through early 2012. That's on the extended side of "temporary."

Change of traffic pattern? That means that one of six lanes on Flatbush will be closed. A "reversible center lane [will] provide a third travel lane in the peak direction." Expect new No Standing Anytime signs and traffic agents will be assigned to facilitate the flow of traffic.

(Click on graphic to enlarge)

Burying the real reason?

According to the notice, the work aims "to accommodate upgrades to the MTA vent structures along Flatbush Avenue."

Sure, but that seems to be the secondary reason.

According to the June 2009 Technical Memorandum,…

London-based sponsor signed for 38 four-seat loge boxes at Barclays Center; Jackie Robinson legacy invoked for Prokhorov's team

So, an arena named for a UK-based company, the Barclays Center, has another partner, another UK-based global firm, the Willis Group, aiming to expand its foothold in the United States.

The Willis Group, an insurance firm that took over the former Sears Tower, has a five-year deal to sponsor "the Barclays Center’s 38 Loge Boxes," which are four-seat boxes distinct from the 104 suites.

No price for the deal was announced, though the Post quoted Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal as saying the annual value of other Barclays Center sponsorship deals range between $1 million and $3 million.

That means that the publicity value for Willis of the news announced yesterday, including a strategic announcement first in Sports Business Journal, then a press release, may go a good ways to approaching its annual fee.

Dodgers redux?

Note this claim from Willis: "Brooklyn is a great global brand that’s reaching new heights with the Barclays Center. The borough has earned a storied pl…

For the New Domino, newly unveiled MOU casts doubt on affordable housing promises

Last week, I raised questions about the guarantees of 30% affordability in the New Domino plan in Williamsburg (which approaches a full City Council vote on Thursday).

Now Williamsburg Greenpoint News+Arts advances the story, reporting:
Unlike the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning of 2005, which spelled out the inclusionary housing goals and benefits in the zoning text, the affordability aspects within the New Domino proposal are in a separate letter, a non legally binding document called a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

...In the case of the New Domino plan, the “out” lies not just with the city but with the developer CPCR as well. From a copy of the actual MOU (see at end of article) for the proposed New Domino plan, exclusively obtained by WG News + Arts, paragraph 9 in the text clearly states:

“Whereas, this MOU is not a legally binding instrument and is only intended to set forth the understandings of the parties without creating any legally enforceable rights or obliga…

In the Boston Review, an Atlantic Yards-centric review of The Battle for Gotham

The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, by Roberta Brandes Gratz, is the subject of a thoughtful 2900-word review in the Boston Review, Clear and Hold, by Brooklyn resident and Princeton grad student Casey Walker.

Atlantic Yards gets a significant cameo in the book's Conclusion (its tenth chapter), but it is the focus of Walker's review, which states: Atlantic Yards is a familiar urban story: surrounding neighborhoods are braced for upheaval; architects have come and gone; redesigns have been announced, lambasted, tweaked, disowned; lawsuits multiply like kudzu; millions of dollars are all but blowing through the air; and the likely date of actual completion is anyone’s guess (Forest City Ratner, the developer, contends the Barclays Center will be finished by 2011, but the Web site does not give a timetable for the rest of the project).Actually, they're saying 2012, now.

Questions that never got answered

Walker, who wisely recognizes th…

Atlantic Yards down the memory hole, again; DCP official suggests the project was an example of public participation

It was a throwaway moment, almost, at Land Use and Local Voices, a conference July 21 co-sponsored by the Municipal Art Society and Manhattan Community Board 1.

But it was another example of how Atlantic Yards may be falling down the collective memory hole, and how even a top bureaucrat at the Department of City Planning doesn't understand the project, suggesting it as an example of effective public participation for some.

(Here's general coverage of the conference, from Streetsblog and Capital.)

Setting the stage

During a panel analyzing what's distinct about the city's land use process, moderator Ethel Sheffer, former president of the New York Metro Chapter of the American Planning Association, addressed panelist Sara Logan,Chair, Housing and Land Use Committee, Bronx Community Board 6, a mostly Hispanic area in the central Bronx with a significant fraction of people on public assistance.

How can people participate in the land use process, Sheffer asked, and do they feel…

In Forbes video, Yormark spins suites: it's about "creating a sense of urgency and scarcity to that customer"

In the Fobes video below, Nets Sports and Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark spins suites.

In the context of the overall economy, how would you describe the market for suites, Yormark is asked.

"It's certainly getting better," he responds. "I think the NBA does it as good as anybody else. They have annual meetings with respect to premium seating and suites, where we're doing a lot of best practice exchanges... But I think overall it's about creating more value. It's getting out of the box, being creative, running events, creating a sense of urgency and scarcity to that customer, and making sure you have the right message."

A sense of urgency? The suites have not exactly been selling well, given that, in 20 months, sales nudged from "about 30 percent" to less than 34 percent and the top price declined more than 21 percent.

What are their innovations?

"For us, it starts with our product mix," Yormark responds. "We have larger suites,…