Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Forbes feature on Gilmartin (and Pavlova) repeats developer's talking points, revisionist history

Forbes.com, in a feature aimed for its ForbesWoman channel, offers Meet The Women Behind The Brooklyn Nets, focusing on Forest City Ratner's MaryAnne Gilmartin and Onexim's Irina Pavlova.

Writes Jenna Goudreau, transcribing without skepticism Gilmartin's self-serving account:
Gilmartin, 47, has been a commercial real estate developer with Forest City for 17 years—seemingly as long as this project’s been in the works. The firm purchased the Nets in 2004, she explains, with the intention of bringing them to Brooklyn and building a state-of-the-art sports complex and 15 residential buildings over an old rail line running through the borough’s center. Rigorous public reviews, resident protests and holdouts, 35 lawsuits and a volatile economy resulted in years of delays.
Here's what Gilmartin said, on the video below:
"So this project has been in the planning since 1994, when we purchased the New Jersey Nets, with the intention of bringing them to Brooklyn, to build a new home for professional sports and also to build thousands of units of housing. There are over 35 lawsuits associated with the project, and that cost us time and the process that we went through to resolve those lawsuits and to work through the public approvals I think resulted in a better project."
The video



What's wrong: the timetable

How could the writer suggest that this project has been in the works some 17 years, since 1994? Because Gilmartin, in either an error or a Freudian slip, said the project "has been in the planning since 1994, when we purchased the New Jersey Nets."

That year, of course, was 2004, but the planning for this specific project began well before then, at least two years earlier. And, as I reported in 2006, the Nets did approach Forest City Ratner in the early 1990s to buy the team and move it to Brooklyn.

What's wrong: the project configuration and location

Actually, the initial plans were not for "15 residential buildings," as Goudreau wrote, nor merely to "build thousands of units of housing." Forest City Ratner promised 10,000 office jobs in four office towers.

Nor would the project be "over an old rail line running through the borough’s center." Rather, less than 40% of the site would be over an existing rail yard used to store and service trains.

What's wrong: rigorous public review

Goudreau, not Gilmartin, called the process "rigorous public reviews." Nope, not when the state said Ratner could build the project in ten years, while Ratner now says it was never possible

What's wrong: 35 lawsuits

Now, there weren't 35 lawsuits. Not even close.

Jobs

Gilmartin said,  "Right now there are 750 people a week working on the site, and a third of those people come from Brooklyn."

Given that the most recent external report, albeit based on end-of-September information, indicated 415 workers, any numbers provided by Forest City should be vetted.

The "holdout"

"Because of the way we received possession of the properties, we had to work around the holdout that was located on the south side of the arena," Gilmartin said. "The resident who held out. We literally were building the arena around that building until we got possession of that building."

Well, yes, and no. The developer was doing excavation, so it was part of the arena construction, but it was not, as might be assumed, vertical construction.

And Daniel Goldstein was not the only "holdout." Several other property owners resisted eminent domain and others were there as long as--or nearly as long as--Goldstein after they lost possession of their properties.

More importantly, Atlantic Yards was not resisted by a few property owners and "the holdout." It generated significant community protest.

(Photo from Mike Galinsky, director of Battle for Brooklyn, shows site work near Goldstein 636 Pacific Street building in May 2010)

The impact on Brooklyn

Goudreau asked Gilmartin, "What does this do for Brooklyn. Are people getting excited?"

Responded Westchester resident Gilmartin, "I think this is transformative for the neighborhood, for the borough, and for the city. I think it's going to have a dramatic impact. It's a modern icon for the borough."

Well, it will be an icon. And it will be transformative. It's just that it will stand for much more than what Gilmartin intends.

The article, of course, ignored any voices other than those promoting the arena, so there was nothing about the impact of construction, crony capitalism, or the lessons learned from this process.

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