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Showing posts from March, 2011

Nets start selling tickets for Brooklyn 2012; prices up; no PSLs (personal seat licenses), despite 2006 prediction; "Grand Opening Weekend" planned

The Nets are selling tickets for Brooklyn 2012, reports the Times:Getting a full season’s jump on selling season tickets at Barclays Center, the Nets started their sales effort Wednesday. Available now only to current season-ticket holders are premium season passes, which include unlimited food, concierge service and other perks. They start at $99 per game and go up to $1,500.

The Nets’ chief executive, Brett Yormark, said the team started sales to gauge how many season-ticket holders would re-up for the move to Brooklyn. The passes will be offered in June to fans who do not hold season tickets, and the rest of the tickets will be available in the fall.Higher prices

The Post adds: Yormark said the average Nets ticket at Barclays Center would run $132 — more than double the $60 average for tickets to see the woeful Nets at Newark’s Prudential Center. In the 2006-2007 season, when the team was last a contender, the Nets’ average ticket ran $101.

The new Nets prices are expected to be among…

Forest City reports increased earnings, savings on Nets, small uptick on contracted arena revenue--and departure of Minieri

In a press release headlined Forest City Reports Fiscal 2010 Full-Year and Fourth-Quarter Results, Forest City Enterprises yesterday reported record earnings, though those earnings on a per share basis are down.

The parent of Forest City Ratner noted that the sale of the Nets was paying off, and that there was a modest increase in contractually obligated arena income.

The Real Deal also reported yesterday that Forest City Ratner president and Chief Operating Officer Joanne Minieri, with the company since 1995, had left for her own consulting venture. She also will continue to advise FCR.

Was Minieri nudged out in an effort to save a big salary--no replacement was announced--or was she simply itching to leave? It's tough to know, from the outside, but the developer has been trying to save on relatively small expenditures, such as $100,000 for an Independent Compliance Monitor.

Earnings results

From the press release:EBDT (Earnings Before Depreciation, Amortization and Deferred Taxes) fo…

Seeking cash, Forest City Ratner sells 49 percent of Atlantic Terminal/Center malls, other retail and entertainment properties

In an effort to "create liquidity" (aka raise cash), Forest City Ratner has sold a a 49% stake in "15 mature retail and entertainment properties" in the New York City area, including the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls in Brooklyn.

The buyer, Madison International Realty, self-described as "The Leading Liquidity Provider to Real Estate Investors Worldwide," will invest $172.3 million in cash. The properties are valued by this transaction at $851.5 million, including $499.9 million of debt. Forest City will continue to own a majority 51% stake, and manage the properties.

Is that a good deal for Forest City? Did Madison get a bargain? The only context I see is from the Wall Street Journal, in a short article today headlined Ratner Sells Shopping-Center Stake:The sale to Madison International Realty comes as Forest City has been hobbled by major development projects that were started at the market's peak, when prices and expectations were far h…

Federal agency stonewalls Freedom of Information Act requests on Forest City's EB-5 green card scheme, waits four-plus months to send denial letters

Will we ever find out how exactly federal authorities gave preliminary approval--and more--to the astounding efforts to get Chinese millionaires to invest in Atlantic Yards in exchange for green cards?

Not that likely.
During a crucial four-month period when developer Forest City Ratner and the New York City Regional Center successfully recruited immigrant investors in China and South Korea, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) stonewalled my Freedom of Information Act requests in a a very odd fashion.

The USCIS responded to me in letters dated 10/22/10 and 11/2/10, as well as two undated letters.

However, it did not mail those letters until early March, some four months later, and gave no explanation for the delay.

(Was the belated contact made in anticipation of National Freedom of Information Day, held March 16 in honor of James Madison’s birthday?)

Moreover, the explanation given for three denials of my FOIA requests--that they were not of journalistic and pub…

Reconsidering Jane Jacobs: a program tomorrow at the Museum of the City of New York

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 31 at 6:30 pm, the Museum of the City of New York will host a panel titled Reconsidering Jane Jacobs. The blurb:Fifty years after publishing The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs is perhaps the most widely read urbanist ever. She transformed urban planning and with it our cities and neighborhoods. And yet, we no longer live in the world of Death and Life, even as urbanists of all political persuasions claim Jacobs's mantle and all but deify her. Max Page, co-editor of Reconsidering Jane Jacobs (APA Planners Press, 2011), David Freeland, author of Automats, Taxi Dances, Vaudeville: Excavating Manhattan's Lost Places of Leisure (New York University Press, 2009); Mary Rowe, Urban Fellow, Municipal Art Society of New York; and Samuel Zipp, author of Manhattan Projects: The Rise and Fall of Urban renewal in Cold War New York (Oxford University Press, 2010) go beyond the usual discussion of Jacobs and take an unsentimental look at her co…

Victory for the "Atlantic Yards" meme: even MTA spokesman inaccurately uses term to describe Vanderbilt Yard

From City Hall News:"We are in contract to sell the development rights over Hudson Yards and Atlantic Yards, two of our biggest and certainly most valuable properties," said Aaron Donovan, a spokesperson for the MTA. "In addition, we are in the midst of a systematic investigation of our office space needs. We've issued a request for proposals to solicit the help of brokers who may be able to help us identify the sales potential of some of our office sites."Actually, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority property, 8.5 acres, is called the Vanderbilt Yard.

By contrast, Atlantic Yards is the brand for a 22-acre site that includes formerly public streets, formerly private property, and some private property that neither the state nor developer Forest City Ratner controls.

Can a prefab skyscraper work well with the urban landscape? "You can, but it's not been done yet," professor tells Brian Lehrer

The biggest Atlantic Yards news this morning on the Brian Lehrer Show was the blunt statement by Rafael Cestero, Commissioner of the city Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development, that his department felt an additional housing subsidy request by Forest City Ratner "was not a good public investment."

But there were some enlightening moments in another segment, Pre-Fab At Atlantic Yards, notably observations that it's difficult to create an esthetically satisfying modular tower, and Forest City Ratner is working in uncharted territory.

Lehrer started off the discussion by pointing out that the developer is considering a 34-story modular tower, the tallest in the world. Modular construction is untested at this height and, while it could cut construction costs in half, unionized construction workers would lose many jobs they expected.

"Charles Bagli joins me now," Lehrer said. "He's the reporter at the New York Times whose been covering the many t…

On Brian Lehrer, HPD Commissioner says FCR's request for additional housing subsidy "was not a good public investment"

Today on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, the host asked Rafael Cestero, who's leaving his post as Commissioner of the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development (HPD), about the report that HPD had declined Forest City Ratner's recent request for an additional $10 million in additional subsidies--beyond the $14 million for 150 units--for the first residential building.

"One is, we have a set of programs that we use across the city... that fall within certain subsidy parameters that make sense for taxpayers and make sense for the city," Cestero responded. "We felt that the additional subsidy that Forest City was requesting... didn't meet those parameters and, frankly, that we felt was not a good public investment to go beyond what we have already committed."

"We want to see housing built there. We're all deeply committed to seeing not just the arena built, but to see... the affordable housing built," he added, "but we think the…

Believable? Feds told $249M in immigrant investor (EB-5) funds would create 3705 construction jobs, 350 in retail, 1786 in art/entertainment

How can Forest City Ratner and its partner, an investment pool called the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), claim that 498 Chinese (and Korean) millionaires seeking green cards would create 7696 jobs by investing a half-million dollars each ($249 million total) in the Atlantic Yards project?

It's one of the most preposterous claims in the entire saga of Forest City Ratner's effort to gain a low-interest loan, saving perhaps $191 million, via the federal government's EB-5 program. Under the program, investors and their families gain green cards in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments, ten per investor.

Now there's new evidence undermining the claim, given that the claimed job total--including jobs in construction and entertainment--can't reflect how the money would be used.

Job totals

A graphic (left, and translated below) on the web site of Kookmin, a South Korean immigration agency working with the NYCRC, suggests, for example, that the investment …

On the Brian Lehrer Show today, "Pre-Fab At Atlantic Yards," with the Times's Bagli and a professor of urbanism

On today's Brian Lehrer Show, from 10-noon on WNYC, one of several segments, probably a later one, will be Pre-Fab At Atlantic Yards:Economic savings, timeliness, and engineering safety are some of the issues surrounding the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. New York Times reporter, Charles Bagli, discusses Forest City Ratner's plan to use pre-fab modular construction for some of their building at Atlantic Yards. Aseem Inam, professor of urbanism at Parsons, joins the conversation and discusses pre-fabricated construction from an urban design point of view.My comment: Beyond the economic savings to the developer, and the reduced numbers (and thus income) of construction workers, consider that modular construction also would have a significant impact on the projected tax revenues to the city and state from Atlantic Yards construction.

Those rosy projections of tax revenues have already been diminished by delays in the project, notably in the planned office building. They wou…

So, the Prospect Park Alliance actually welcomed Bruce Bender's help to get state funding via Carl Kruger for a new skating rink

In a letter to the New York Post headlined Above board, Emily Lloyd, President/Administrator, Prospect Park Alliance, Prospect Park, writes:“Kruger Crony Leaned on Me for Vote,” (March 17) states that Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender sought funding for the construction of a new skating rink in Prospect Park without having been requested to do so by the Prospect Park Alliance.

Alliance staff did ask Board Member Amy Bender to help advance our request for state funding for the skating rink, which is currently under construction. Bender’s husband, Bruce, was trying to assist the alliance in obtaining state-funding toward a major public project.

Alliance staff who are involved in public fundraising were informed about those efforts. All proposals for public funding are requested in an appropriate and transparent way.Wiggle room

I'd point out that there's a little wiggle room there. Alliance staff asked Amy Bender for help. They didn't necessarily ask her to ask her …

In the Record, Nets CEO Yormark says arena concert schedule coming soon; also, some lingering AY controversies lightly described

In the Record, Nets' new home moving forward, John Brennan quotes Nets CEO Brett Yormark, regarding a big announcement:We’ve been talking to artists and promoters, and the biggest names in the business want to play here,” Yormark said during a tour of the arena site last week. “I think our opening-month celebration is going to be unprecedented. When we put out the artists’ names that are going to appear here. … Everyone sees the movement in Brooklyn. They understand that this is going to continue the renaissance in Brooklyn, and they’re embracing it. They want to be a part of it.”

Yormark has an ace in the hole when it comes to performers — music entrepreneur Jay-Z has a minor stake in the Nets franchise, and his wife, BeyoncĂ©, is a major recording star. The concert schedule that will serve as the “soft launch” for the arena, and the opening date for the Nets should be announced soon, Yormark said.About those controversies

A sidebar, headlined Continuing controversy, mentions some o…

Behind the Bloomberg administration's CityTime scandal: budget director Mark Page (who helped steer the revision of Forest City Ratner's MTA deal)

Also see Michael D. D. White's Noticing New York coverage.

In Behind Troubled City Payroll Project, Lax Oversight and One Powerful Insider, the New York Times digs into a black mark on the Bloomberg administration:But the payroll automation project, known as CityTime, has instead become a major embarrassment for the Bloomberg administration, first ballooning to $700 million and then resulting in federal criminal charges and multiple investigations that could dog the mayor for years.

Last week, Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith declared what had become obvious: the city cannot rely on outside consultants to monitor multimillion-dollar technology contracts, which it had done with CityTime. He added that the city would create a new office inside City Hall to do so.

An examination of the events that led to the CityTime scandal reveals lax oversight, mismanagement and a basic failure to control costs.

It also showed that much of the fervent drive to install the system could be traced to the d…

Daily News investigation of City Council Members points to (AY supporters) Dilan, Mealy as "the worst of the worst," also targets Sanders

The New York Daily News has been publishing a dismaying series on the ethical shortcomings of one-third of the 51 City Council Members.

An editorial yesterday, The City Council is a sorry spectacle, the Daily News investigation showed in sordid detail, highlights a few, including these two: Two Brooklynites won the award for the worst of the worst. Erik Dilan and Darlene Mealy represent districts with large low-income populations, where families with limited resources face the tough challenge of finding decent places to live.

And what has Dilan, of Bushwick, chairman of the Housing Committee, done to help? He helped himself, of course. He moved into a subsidized apartment that is supposed to be for families with incomes of less than $114,000. He and his wife reported incomes $40,000 over the limit.

Mealy, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, is also squatting on housing that should be occupied by someone making a lot less than the $112,500 salary plus a $10,000 lulu she gets for her part-time Council …

Noticing New York on "fictional job creation" and Atlantic Yards

Drawing on some of my reporting, Noticing New York's Michael D. D. White takes off from a story about fictional job creation nationally to dissect claims of job creation with Atlantic Yards:
In the case of Atlantic Yards we have two levels of AWOL government, each level with its own fictional job creation program that is not fulfilling its ostensible purpose: At the state level the ESDC (the “New York State Urban Development Corporation” doing business as the “New York State Urban Development Corporation”) does not monitor or pay attention to how many jobs are created at the megadevelopment and on the federal level (Congress again neglecting the declared core of a program) we have the non-job-creating EB5 program that we will get to in a minute. Perhaps what mightily facilitates the ease with which the EB-5 program is abused is that it is not known by any formal title, like the American Jobs Creation Act, leaving the New York Times to struggle as it refers to Ratner’s `…

In Our Time Press, the notorious Stephen Witt hails Ratner's modular plan, cites support from Caldwell of BUILD

The notorious Stephen Witt is now writing for the Bedford-Stuyvesant-based Our Time Press, but his m.o. remains the same.

In Build Atlantic Yards in Bedford-Stuyvesant (from this issue), Witt writes: If developer Forest City Ratner (FCR) wants to prefabricate all planned 16 high-rise buildings in his $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project that’s fine with me as long as most of the factory work stays in Brooklyn.

And a good place to start looking for a site to build modules components of the skyscrapers that will be trucked and bolted together on the 22-acre site starting at the Flatbush/Atlantic avenues intersection is in Bedford- Stuyvesant.This is a version of an argument made by Crown Heights residents (and then-Daily News columnist) Errol Louis, as expressed at a forum in September 21006: "If they’re going to get a billion-dollar TIF [tax-increment financing] deal in Rensselaer County, I think where I live, in Kings County, if somebody wants to bring a billion-dollar deal ther…

Regarding Edmonton arena deal, sports economist Zimbalist advises caution and careful bargaining

It's notable how sober sports economist Andrew Zimbalist sounds in his advice (as with his his previous advice) regarding an arena proposal in Edmonton, Alberta. CTV Edmonton reports: A sports economist hired by Northlands thinks private developers should pay for overruns, and he's offering this advice to council:

"Once it's approved at the Spartan level, they start to say, 'oh we'd like to have this next to the locker room' and we'd like these bells and whistles. You've got to be deliberate, you've got to be cautious and you've got to be strong in bargaining in a deal that's good for the City of Edmonton," said Dr. Andrew Zimbalist.With Atlantic Yards, his report, commissioned by Forest City Ratner, was used to help justify $100 million in direct city subsidies--and then, after the project was approved, those subsidies were doubled (and later shaved back somewhat to an official, if contestable, $179 million).

Getting ready for modular construction? NYC Building Trades Employers' Association asks unions to drop restrictions on off-site work

Modular construction, apparently, is one of the negotiating points between contractors and union workers.

Union radical Gregory Butler, on his Gangbox News blog, recently posted THE BUILDING TRADES EMPLOYERS ASSOCIATION'S 26 POINT ULTIMATUM TO THE NEW YORK BUILDING TRADES, from the Building Trades Employers' Association (BTEA), which represents "1,700 construction managers, general contractors and specialty subcontractor firms in New York City."

It included cuts in wages, no overtime for make-up work, a cut in overtime pay from double to time-and-a-half, and rule changes, but the key passages, at least regarding Forest City Ratner's plans for modular construction of towers at the Atlantic Yards site, are these:6. No limitations on materials, supplies or equipment, regardless of their source or origin;

7. Elimination of prohibitions of or restrictions on work which is performed off-site on materials or products modified or fabricated for installation on the project;
T…