Skip to main content

Daily News pokes at Lipsky contradiction on eminent domain; also, FCR may have hired him for youth sports, but he's been a zealous advocate

Daily News columnist Adam Lisberg yesterday took a swipe at lobbyist Richard Lipsky for some seeming inconsistency: vigorous advocacy against projects involving eminent domain like Willets Point and Columbia University, while working for Bruce Ratner on Atlantic Yards.

Lisberg writes:
At the same time, though, developer Bruce Ratner's companies are paying Lipsky $3,500 a month for "information and advice" on Atlantic Yards, the controversial project to bring apartments and the Nets basketball team to Brooklyn.

The first phase of Atlantic Yards alone required the state to condemn 15 privately owned properties.

Eminent domain allows government to seize a private owner's property to serve the greater public good — if you consider a basketball stadium or a shopping center to be a public good.

Lipsky said he's usually against it, but the Nets arena and its benefits for neighborhood kids make it worthwhile in Brooklyn.

"I don't have an absolute position on [eminent domain] but I do have a strong disposition against it," Lipsky said. "It takes a lot to push me in that direction."

He also said he only worked on Atlantic Yards' youth sports efforts programs, not its eminent domain work efforts.

Of course, Ratner could have hired him to work for Atlantic Yards just so the opponents couldn’t hire him to work against it.

"That's true," Lipsky acknowledged. "You'd have to ask them why they hired me."

An Atlantic Yards spokesman said Lipsky was hired strictly for youth sports programs.
What Lipsky's argued: CBA

If Lipsky was hired strictly for youth sports programs, he sure hasn't let that stop him from extolling Atlantic Yards for multiple reasons.

He wrote in July 2009:
A truly empowering CBA [Community Benefits Agreement] is a phenomenon that has yet to be seen in the Bronx-or any where else in NYC-with Atlantic Yards, in our view, being the major exception.
A major exception? None of the empowered CBA signatories ever raised a peep about the failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor.

What Lipsky's argued: economic benefits

He wrote in September 2008:
We can only hope so, since the arena and the team would be a huge boost, not only for the city, but for the thousands of young people that are playing ball in Brooklyn harboring the dream of playing professionally. It will be inspiring for these youngsters, and the Nets will be partnering with the amateur sports groups in the borough to channel the dreams into constructive directions for those majority of young people whose dreams are not commensurate with professional talent.

At the same time, the project will be a big economic boost for the city at a time when the both the mayor and the governor are looking to raise taxes to cover revenue shortfalls; but it hasn't been easy for FCRC (also our client)...

There are those who have criticized us for alleged inconsistency over the issue of eminent domain because of our opposition to the efforts of Columbia. That being said, the two projects substantially differ in regards to their relationship to the public interest. Forest City's going to build thousands of affordable housing units, while Columbia resists doing anything substantive for the West Harlem community-and this is without factoring in the economic and social boost that the Nets relocation will bring to Brooklyn.
Lipsky should know that it's highly questionable that the project would be a big economic boost; the studies on which the city and state relied have enormous holes.

As for the promises of affordable housing, Forest City's not going to build the units until they get subsidies, and even the first building's delayed.

What Lipsky's argued: Brooklyn Day

He wrote in June 2008:
We've always maintained that the AY project, on balance, has much good to offer Brooklyn and the rest of the city, but as the critics point out, we're paid to say that. So don't take our word for it, listen the the kids and the amateur athletic teams that turned out on Brooklyn Day to trumpet the Nets coming to the city-they know what kind of excitement and support the team will bring to the youngsters; and we still haven't touched on the housing which will follow the team's entrance.
Brooklyn Day was not exactly a day of excitement--it was an event ginned up by Forest City Ratner. But maybe Lipsky sees his Brooklyn Day advocacy as connected to youth sports programs.

Lipsky's reponse

Today, Lipsky writes:
Now, we dealt with this issue six years ago-emphasizing the importance of the Nets coming to Brooklyn:

"From the Alliance's perspective the most salient reason to join hands with FCRC, Build and Acorn is the bringing of the Nets to Brooklyn with a brand new arena. When the Alliance's Richard Lipsky was an up and comer plying his basketball wares all over the city, Brooklyn was a mecca for all BBall pilgrims. It still is, and the love for the game is beyond what even we would have imagined when we first began to evaluate the AY proposal.

The Brooklyn Nets are going to galvanize the entire borough and the team and its ownership is going to play a major role in working along with the youth leaders of Brooklyn in their tireless and unacknowledged efforts on behalf of the kids. That is why the support has been so unequivocal from these community folks."

A position that we reiterated when we talked with Lisberg
Except his position is well beyond sports.

Shady deal?

Lipsky adds:
But what Lisberg misses here-and should pursue in our view-is that our representation of WPU has always been straightforward and above board. The proponents of this massive boondoggle, however, have been underhanded from the start-improperly hiring Claire Shulman's local development corporation to engage in a successful lobbying of the city council when such advocacy is proscribed by law.

Lisberg and his Albany colleagues should be asking the NYS Attorney General, what is the status of the investigation into the Shulman matter?
That's a fair question, and it should extend to the investigation of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and its Atlantic Yards lobbying, as well.

The bottom line

Lipsky, however, misses the connection between high-profile cases, writing last October:
There is simply no way, in our view, that the confiscation of private property in West Harlem has anything to do with a public use-and the plan was hatched in the bowels of CU and emerged fully grown somehow as a state initiative-call it legerdemain.
Lipsky may think that the Columbia and East Harlem cases he's criticized are somehow different from Atlantic Yards, but that's not what the experts say.

Last month, I listened to some law professors discuss the state of eminent domain in New York. (I'll have more details in a bit.) There was an enormous amount of criticism of the doctrine laid down in the Atlantic Yards case, which essentially gives condemning agencies carte blanche.


  1. Lipsky "said he only worked on Atlantic Yards' youth sports efforts programs, not its eminent domain work efforts."

    Really? Here is an example of Lipsky only working on youth sports efforts programs (as NoLandGrab's Eric McClure keeps making clear, it's all about the kid$$$$). Lipsky wrote:

    "Goldstein also told the paper that a size reduction alone would not halt the "my way or the highway"opposition to the project. Even the linchpin of the development for so many in Brooklyn-the team and the arena- is something that this misanthrope wants to disappear. Which means that the best thing that could happen to Brooklyn would be for Goldstein to disappear from the footprint of the borough.

    His opposition to the arena, something we are going to advertise far and wide throughout the borough, means that there are now thousands of newly minted volunteers who will be delighted to man the bulldozer when the legal green flag is waived to demolish this obstructionist's abode. He has now gone from being a legitimate critic to just some self-serving crank and a pest."

    Youth sports efforts — yeah right. I guess the threats and character assassination were just freebies Lipsky thought he'd give to Ratner.


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…