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Showing posts from July, 2011

Public vote (!) tomorrow to replace Nassau Coliseum; demise would boost Barclays Center; Daily News, Post, slam (!) public arena funding; economist warns of "corporate welfare to pro sports team owners"

There's a referendum Monday in tax-strapped Nassau County on a $400 million plan to replace the Nassau Coliseum (and build a minor league ballpark), and you can bet that Barclays Center backers are hoping the whole thing blows up, thus sending events--no, not the main tenant, the hockey Islanders, but concerts and shows--to that new arena rising near the Long Island Rail Road terminal in Brooklyn.

There's reason for question the plan, as I'll describe below, but it's notable how the New York Daily News and New York Post editorial pages, steady backers of Atlantic Yards, have discovered their inner Daniel Goldstein, fervently denouncing the "scheme."

(It's also notable that the public gets a voice decide--though it should be pointed out that a Monday in August is not exactly designed for mass turnout. Neither the public nor local elected officials voted on support for Atlantic Yards. Note that the Nassau County Legislature and then the Nassau Interim Finan…

Cliche alert: AP hoops writer suggests Bruce Ratner "remembers" the days of the Dodgers in Brooklyn. Nah.

Brian Mahoney, NBA writer for The Associated Press, reports, in Nets hard at work building toward Brooklyn move:
"Brooklyn certainly deserves the best of entertainment there is to offer,'' [Bruce Ratner] said.

Ratner remembers when Brooklyn had it, when the beloved Dodgers played at Ebbets Field and top musicians performed at the Paramount. He believes the Barclays Center will bring back what's been missing.

"Sports and entertainment are such a part of our lives in this country. People who say, 'Well, it's just an arena,' they're really not right,'' Ratner said. "It's a physical structure. More than that, it's a part of ourselves, it's part of what entertainment is and everyone loves entertainment.''(Emphasis added)

Which is, why, of course, that the project was sold as "Jobs, Housing, and Hoops," with the added layer of starchitect Frank Gehry.

Does Ratner really remember the "beloved Dodgers" i…

In an alternate universe, Nets GM Billy King, suburban Philly resident, compares AY arena setting to Chicago's United Center; sports stenography ensues

Nets General Manager Billy King, along with paid pitchman Albert King, a Brooklyn native and former Net, hosted basketball writers Wednesday at the under-construction Barclays Center.

King, who lives in suburban Philadelphia and spent a good chunk of his professional career in that city, made a stunningly uninformed comment, equating the Atlantic Yards setting to the setting for the United Center in Chicago, suggesting that the impact of the arena would be similar.

Chicago vs. Brooklyn

The United Center is located on a 46-acre parcel. The Atlantic Yards arena is located on a, what, six-acre parcel?

The United Center is located in a non-residential area west of the Chicago Loop. The Barclays Center will abut neighborhoods that have predominantly low-rise and mid-rise residential buildings.

The arena, yes, will bring changes to Brooklyn, notably event-related retail and entertainment. But there's no comparison to Chicago. (Nor, really, to L.A., but that's a different story.)

Stil…

When it comes to sports facility deals, the devil's in the details

Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, in Losing $30M in annual fees shows city whiffed big-time on new Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, writes:
Well, it turns out that Shea and the old Yankee Stadium - both of which sat on park land, and were owned by the city - were the Parks Department's biggest revenue generators.

Under the old Yankee Stadium deal, the city was assured a percentage of gate receipts, a percentage of food sales, even a percentage of the team's cable revenue.Well, the city also paid for maintenance of the publicly-owned stadiums, so there was a trade-off.

Now the teams pay themselves for maintenance, but they got nice deals that allowed them to pay for construction of new facilities, with luxury suites/boxes, via tax-exempt bonds. Ditto with the Atlantic Yards arena.

And, as Gonzalez suggests, it's negotiable--and the teams seem to have negotiated well.

For example, why did the state give arena naming rights away?

Why, if it was "part of the financing for the…

RPA's Marshall on MTA deals: "Why should the private sector reap most of the benefits from track and station improvements?"

In What Jay Walder's new city, Hong Kong, can teach us about transit: Make money, don't just spend it, journalist Alex Marshall, a senior fellow at the Regional Plan Association (RPA), observes that the outgoing Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief is going to a city-state where the transit agency works as a developer.

Writes Marshall: While it may seem extraordinary to have a transit company operating like a profit-making company, it's not novel. Private streetcar lines made money more on real estate deals than the nickel fares they received.

...Today, governments can facilitate new versions of these old arrangements. What if the MTA had chosen to develop the land around the Hudson Yards in Manhattan instead of effectively selling it off to a developer? Or take Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn: Why should the private sector reap most of the benefits from track and station improvements?

In cases such as these, which are bound to come up again, the MTA must be both aggress…

A paean to the New York Times in a New York Magazine cover story; missing is any recognition how the Times fails to cover Brooklyn (and AY)

Seth Mnookin's New York magazine cover story this week is headlined The Kingdom and the Paywall: Some people thought that on Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s watch, the New York Times could actually become extinct. They might need to issue a correction.

According to the article, thanks to the new paywall that gets readers to pay for online access, new hires, and a commitment to international reporting, the Times has stood out in a shaky newspaper landscape, and turned the corner on its finances.

And all is well. Mnookin concludes:
As a profession, journalism of the kind the Times practices can be dangerous. And as a business, in a metaphorical sense, more so... The current Sulzberger’s bets have at times seemed the most outlandish, as if he’s willfully refused to read the writing on the wall. But for the Sulzbergers, whatever their faults, even when the paper was making money, it has always been a calling rather than a business.Missing: a New York focus and Brooklyn scrutiny

Maybe the pape…

What if Rupert cared? A few Atlantic Yards story ideas (!) for the New York Post (or other tabloid)

What if... in some kind of alternate universe, media mogul Rupert Murdoch made Atlantic Yards a special priority?

After all, as Azi Paybarah reports in this week's New York Observer, Rupert’s Post Game: His Royal Pie-ness Story on Page SShhh, the New York Post responds to its owners whims and directives. And the Post, not surprisingly, played down a great tabloid moment: the pie in the face Murdoch received when testifying before the U.K. Parliament.

When Rupert cares

And, on the flip side, Murdoch could focus attention, sometimes even more than merited. From the article:
One reporter was told by his editor that “Rupert ordered” a look into the connections between then-governor David Paterson and the lobbying activities of his father, Basil Paterson, according to a Post insider. It was, in fairness, a sound story to investigate, but there was an implied understanding that the reporter should turn up something, since his editor felt the need to mention where the idea came from.

Mr. M…

At protest outside Atlantic Yards site, former project supporters angrily call for local jobs and contracts

The big news from yesterday's protest (other coverage) of the lack of jobs at the Atlantic Yards site (and other sites), held by People for Political and Economic Empowerment (P.P.E.E.), was less the content of the protest than the fact that it occurred: formerly vocal (and disruptive) supporters of the project were now holding a protest, as I noted in my preview piece.

But the protest (videos below), which focused on Atlantic Yards (and went to one other site, near the Brooklyn Academy of Music), was notably angry, as P.P.E.E. President Allen and others excoriated developer Forest City Ratner from outside the gate and, at times, admitted regret for their formerly pro-project stance.


About 60-70 people attended, though Allen and others vowed future protests, with larger crowds. If so, Forest City--which may have tried to avert the protest--will have more on its hands.

Note that, despite the sign above, the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) shouldn't be void because Bruce Ratn…

FUREE, looking for "missing jobs" promised in Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, protests Forest City Ratner, focuses on Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

In contrast to yesterday morning's protest by People for Political and Economic Empowerment regarding the lack of local jobs and contracts, an afternoon protest held by FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), was more organized, with protesters wearing t-shirts, planning with the police, chanting and singing, and offering both agitprop theater and concrete demands.

FUREE, which brought 40-50 people to several sites around Downtown Brooklyn, including the offices of Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, focused on the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), asking (unsuccessfully) for a meeting with DBP President Joe Chan.

They contrasted the promises of 18,500 new jobs with the reality, which includes a claimed 7000 new jobs--I'd like to see the statistics.

The press release below points out that, instead of jobs (via office towers) the main result of the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning was luxury housing.

I'd add that planners and the City Council n…

Did Forest City Ratner try to avert yesterday's rally? There were hints, plus an FCR associate shadowing the protest

Did Forest City Ratner or others try to stop yesterday's protest, led by People for Political and Economic Empowerment (P.P.E.E.)?

P.P.E.E. president Martin Allen, in the interviews below, hinted as such, though he wouldn't name names. He said they wanted to avert the protest, and call him in for a negotiation.



He said he wanted a public negotiation, with promises for local jobs and hiring fulfilled as promised. If such another project arose, I asked what he'd do differently? Get it in writing, he said.

But Forest City did sign a Community Benefits Agreement, so the devil's in the details.

Shadowing the protest

At one point, the woman pictured at left, along with an associate walked along, observing the protest.

One of the protesters identified her to me as Yvette, the daughter of Darryl Greene, the controversial minority hiring/contracting consultant who was so toxic, because of his criminal record, that his role in one firm's Aqueduct "racino" bid led to…

The Ratner response to yesterday's protest: there are 543 workers, 217 from Brooklyn (really?); one report asks, Where's the ICM?

Several news organizations covered the protest yesterday (my coverage) by former vocal supporters of the Atlantic Yards project, and got Forest City Ratner's questionable response.

The Daily News, in Atlantic Yards project's former supporters turn on developer over lack of local jobs, reproted:
Advocates and would-be workers who loudly backed the project at years of public hearings turned their bullhorns yesterday on developer Bruce Ratner.

"We feel like idiots because we supported you, we listened to you, we thought your word was gold," said Martin Allen, president of People for Political and Economic Empowerment. "Now that you got the job moving, you turn into a rat."

There are 543 workers on the site, Ratner officials said - compared with 1,620 predicted in state documents by this summer. Officials said 217 of the workers live in Brooklyn, but residents who aren't already members of construction unions can't get the jobs.I question those statisti…

Where were you in 2005? Times's skeptical coverage of jail bid in New Jersey contrasts markedly with willingness to downplay parallel issues in Vanderbilt Yard bid

A front-page (in the New York edition) article in today's New York Times Metro section is headlined Political Links and a Jail Bid in North Jersey.

That skeptical piece contrasts notably with the Times's coverage of the process by which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority sold rights to develop its Vanderbilt Yard.

Consider, for example, the Times's perfunctory news brief, headlined Metro Briefing | New York: Brooklyn: Atlantic Yards Proposals Sought and published 5/26/05, in its entirety:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking competitors for the development of its Atlantic Yards site, and has set a deadline of July 6 for proposals. A proposal by Bruce C. Ratner to build 6,000 housing units and a stadium for the Nets basketball team on the site has already won endorsements by the city and the state, which have each offered to pay $100 million for site improvements. But Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the authority, said yesterday that the agency had decided …

FAQ: Forest City Ratner's ridiculous claims about Atlantic Yards tax revenues and jobs, and what's wrong with the (somewhat more sober) city and state projections

Atlantic Yards will be an economic engine for Brooklyn, New York City and the State generating more than $5 billion in new tax revenues over the next 30 years. In addition to tax benefits, the project will also create thousands of new jobs: upwards of 17,000 union construction jobs and up to 8,000 permanent jobs.
--Developer Forest City Ratner, July 2011, as claimed to Crain's New York Business

Will the project bring in $5 billion in new tax revenues?

Not at all. That's a variant of the notorious $6 billion lie touted by sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, Forest City Ratner's hired consultant, working well outside his expertise. Bizarrely,  FCR executives and an FCR lawyer at times claimed in legal papers that it was a state estimate. That was an extra lie.

What's wrong with the $5 billion calculation?

There are many reasons why the reasoning's flawed, such as the use of new residents' income to calculate benefits, which is like Donald Trump claiming he'…

Following up on the Markowitz campaign fine: two editorials criticize him; Brooklyn Paper suggests wife is First Lady; poll (taken before fine surfaced) shows BP high in 2013 Mayoral rice

That $20,000 fine levied against Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz for letting his wife get her expenses paid on three international trips--despite explicit advice to the contrary (which he ignores)--is still provoking discussion.

The Daily News reports, in Irked Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz: Change city travel law, that Markowitz is hoping for the City Council to allow spouses to travel for free. Council Members say that's unlikely.

Is Jamie "First Lady" of Brooklyn?

In an editorial, Marty Markowitz scores another Knucklehead Award for trying to pass off his wife as first lady of BK, the Daily News simply says Markowitz is wrong, without noting how the judge in the case contrasted Jamie Markowitz's duties with that of a real First Lady.

After all, the Brooklyn Paper, in Jamie Markowitz is indeed our ‘First Lady’, reports that "anyone who knows Brooklyn and its Beep agrees with him."

I'm not so sure about that, but the newspaper di…

Daily News: parking summonses rise around Atlantic Yards site; now, what about cops themselves? what about trucks with contents uncovered?

In Police crack down on illegal parking around Atlantic Yards construction, the Daily News reports:Cops have finally cracked down on the rampant illegal parking around the Atlantic Yards construction site.

The Daily News reported this month that construction workers, city employees and others were parking illegally and using bogus placards around the busy project site with no fear of enforcement - but now the NYPD is handing out the tickets.

Cops have issued 69 parking summonses in the last two weeks in the blocks around the site, and NYPD spokesman said. The spokesman said the violations "run the gamut" and include parking at a bus stop, on the sidewalk, in front of a hydrant, and in No Standing zones.

Empire State Development Corp. project manager Arana Hankin said when she visited the site last week, she saw NYPD brass directing a ticket blitz.I've reported on the apparent improvement, which Hankin announced nearly two weeks ago.

Unclear is whether the actions of poli…

PHNDC's Veconi on the lessons of the latest Atlantic Yards ruling: the state "is willing to risk breaking the law" when it helps Forest City Ratner

In a July 23 op-ed in Prospect Heights Patch, Lessons from the Community’s Atlantic Yards Win, Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (a component of BrooklynSpeaks), analyzes the significance of Justice Marcy Friedman's July 13 ruling ordering the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to conduct a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement.

Among the lessons:ESDC is willing to risk breaking the law when it helps FCRC [Forest City Ratner]. ESDC had previously shown itself willing to exploit New York State’s regressive eminent domain laws to transfer private property to FCRC. The Friedman decision shows that the agency is also willing to violate State environmental laws when doing so is economically beneficial to FCRC. Furthermore, the experience of this lawsuit shows that ESDC has no compunction about obfuscating in court to conceal what it knows when the facts are. This is a truly chilling realization when one considers that ESDC has sole f…

This weekend, extended work at the Atlantic Yards site related to the removal of underground storage tanks

According to a Supplemental Report (below) to the Empire State Development Corporation's previously issued two week Construction look–ahead regarding July 18-July 31, 2011, extended work--on evenings and weekends--will be needed to remove underground storage tanks from a former gas station at the eastern end of the site, near Pacific Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.

From the notice:New Information: work related to the removal of the underground storage tanks from the former gasoline station as required by NYS-DEC will be conducted during this period. In order to excavate for these tanks, the soil pressure on the north and south SOE (”retaining walls”) within the rail yard needs to be equalized. This will be accomplished by drilling “Tie-Backs” (“soil anchors”) into the closed portion of Pacific St to restrain the south SOE wall, then removing the “Cross-Lot Braces” (30” diameter, 80 ft long pipes) that currently run over the tracks in the yard. Preparatory work is being done to what…

Another protest tomorrow, from FUREE, regarding the lack of jobs at Atlantic Yards site and other sites

Updated: 1:30 p.m.  Starting Point: 81 Willoughby Street, Downtown Brooklyn. Press Conference: 15 MetroTech Center.

Beyond the protest scheduled tomorrow morning by P.P.E.E. (People for Political and Economic Empowerment) and REBUILD, FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality) tomorrow afternoon will be holding "WHERE THE JOBS AT?", a "Walking Tour & Action" aimed to highlight the lack of jobs at Atlantic Yards and other construction sites.

(FUREE, unlike the other groups, has never been an Atlantic Yards supporter.)

From FUREE:
The hunt starts @ 1PM at FUREE’s office – 81 Willoughby St., Suite # 701.

Unemployment is high... Wages are down... Our communities are struggling... IT'S TIME TO TAKE ACTION!

"WHERE THE JOBS AT?" Walking Tour & Action

Across Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn big developers and corporations are given millions of tax-payer dollars and tax-breaks to build in our communities.

They promise jobs and/or affor…

Formerly vocal and distruptive Atlantic Yards supporters, P.P.E.E. (and REBUILD), to rally July 27 protesting lack of jobs at AY site and other construction sites

The Atlantic Yards saga is now moving toward a version of blowback.

Saying "We need jobs, not broken promises," a group that loudly and sometimes disruptively rallied in support for Atlantic Yards is changing its tune, organizing a public protest on July 27 outside the in-progress Barclays Center site and nearby Downtown Brooklyn-area construction sites.

The rally, aimed to start at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues at 9:30 a.m., is sponsored by P.P.E.E. (People for Political and Economic Empowerment), which helps train and place hard-to-employ people, some of them ex-convicts, in construction work.

[The location may shift to the corner of Atlantic and 6th Avenue.]

P.P.E.E. is essentially interchangeable with REBUILD, an organization launched in 2004 by the late Darnell Canada, a pro-project activist who had just left BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), a signatory of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement. BUILD also works on job tr…