Skip to main content

Atlantic Yards ombudsman Taylor leaves ESDC after 3.5 years as disempowered facilitator; agency says candidates for job are being interviewed

Sharp-eyed readers of the Empire State Development Corporation's Atlantic Yards page (click on graphics to enlarge) might notice that this:
has been replaced by this:The difference? Ombudsman Forrest Taylor, who took the job in November 2007 calling Atlantic Yards a "sexy project", but soon came to experience the uncomfortable role of not-so-empowered go-between, is no longer listed.

So he won't be at the ESDC/Forest City Ratner meeting tonight about traffic changes.

In response to my query, ESDC spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell said, "Forrest Taylor has left ESD for another position and we are currently interviewing prospective candidates for the Atlantic Yards Ombudsman position."

(Peter Krashes writes on Atlantic Yards Watch that Taylor's going to the state housing agency.)

More facilitator than public advocate

Despite the term "ombudsman," and the position's announcement in the wake of the fall of a Ward Bakery parapet, Taylor was more facilitator than public advocate, maintaining equanimity at some highly-charged public meetings, in January 2008 and February 2009.

He formerly was an executive at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and chief of staff to City Council Speaker Gifford Miller.

He got mixed reviews from project opponents--some couldn't get past his role as agent of the ESDC, while others praised his accessibility--and sympathy from elected officials.

Wrote Krashes:
Forrest Taylor was personally liked by community leaders, who found him sincerely interested in resolving problems. But Mr. Taylor's position was a difficult one. He was an advocate for the community within an oversight structure that is not transparent and lacks the staff and independent board of other ESDC projects smaller than Atlantic Yards. Until the appointment of Project Director Arana Hankin in the fall of 2010, Taylor was the only public employee ever to work full-time on the project. And in an agency that has had six leaders under four governors since Atlantic Yards was announced, Mr. Taylor’s three and a half years with the project represents an unusual example of continuity.
(Photo by Jonathan Barkey)

I don't know if Taylor was an "advocate for the community," but he did try, within institutional constraints, to be an honest broker. As he told Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein in one exchange, “There are times when I’m with you, Mr. Goldstein. There are times when I’m not.”

"Low on the totem pole"

“I feel for you, Forrest, I really do,” City Council Member Letitia James said at that February 2009 meeting. “I hear Obama is hiring.” The crowd laughed. “I respect your intelligence and I would love to see you in another capacity.”

She asked him to confirm he didn't know if Forest City Ratner was lobbying the state for federal stimulus funds.

"As I tried to make clear, I’m pretty low on the totem pole. It’s not like the old days,” Taylor responded. “So I do not know. So I can imagine, and I know what I read, but I have no firsthand knowledge.”

In October 2009, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries commented that "the ombudsman system... created by the ESDC is was nonfunctional. I think it is nonfunctional because the higher-ups at ESDC aren't interested in empowering the ombudsman in a manner that would benefit the community."

ESDC commitment?

Taylor's role presumably diminished after Hankin, a veteran of the Paterson administration with no significant expertise in development, was in August 2010 named Atlantic Yards Project Manager. The search for the position was not publicly announced.

Nor has the search for Taylor's replacement been publicly announced, as far as I know. Krashes writes:
Forrest Taylor’s departure now presents the ESDC with an opportunity to remake the role so the next ombudsman has authority and resources to responsively address community concerns, and is a partner in decision-making on Atlantic Yards going forward. How Governor [Andrew] Cuomo and [ESDC] Chairman [Kenneth] Adams fill this role will be an indication of their sincerity in engaging constructively with the communities surrounding the project and their elected officials.
I wouldn't bet on the ESDC re-empowering the ombudsman.

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…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

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…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

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…