Skip to main content

AY District Service Cabinet to be replaced by Quality of Life Committee; "Day 2 Task Force" gearing up for arena opening, but details murky (what about Atlantic Antic?)

The big news yesterday at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting yesterday was the Barclays Center's scramble toward the finish line, with a delay in the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy and silence about once-promised pre-opening events.

However, government officials also shared other significant information, including not-yet-clear plans for a "Day 2 Task Force" to address arena operations and a transformation of the District Service Cabinet--a bimonthly morning meeting that included agency officials, elected officials and developer Forest City, with no public input--into a committee meeting in the evenings to focus more narrowly on quality-of-life issues.

While that transformation should increase input from neighbors, both as committee members and visitors, the impact on accountability is less clear, given that the District Service Cabinet has sometimes been the venue for Forest City to face probing questions from elected officials about Atlantic Yards issues beyond quality of life.

"Day 2 Task Force"

Lolita Jackson of the Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit provided a limited update on the task force that will coordinate city responses.

Given that the document is being reviewed by city personnel and the mayor's counsel, it can’t be shared until it’s fully vetted, she said. The final version will be done on Sept. 17, she said, adding that more information may be shared then.

On opening night, representatives of a number of city agencies will be present, “to perhaps tweak some findings in the document.”

She provided some mini-updates:
  • the Bergen Street lot occupied by HPD cannot be opened up to others, because it will be used by more of their personnel
  • the Department of Homeless Services, NYPD, and Common Ground have had discussions regarding homeless outreach and aggressive panhandling
  • discussions continue on how to deal with street vendors of various stripes, from food trucks to counterfeiters. (She said the radius of concern regarding street vending hasn’t been set, but may be adjusted after monitoring.)
Atlantic Antic

What happens on Sept. 30, the day of the Atlantic Antic, Brooklyn’s biggest street fair, which closes Atlantic Avenue east to Fourth Avenue typically until 6 pm., and a Jay-Z concert at the arena two hours later.

“This is a baptism by fire,” observed Jim Vogel, a staffer for state Senator Velmanette Montgomery.. “What happens?”

Jackson said there have been meetings and discussions about the issue, but couldn’t provide details, because she wasn’t at the meeting. She said she was happy to follow up.

Last month, I also spoke with Nat Rubin, owner of the Moxie Spot, and treasurer of the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation, sponsor of the Atlantic Antic.

He said vendors are supposed to leave by 6 pm, and "at 5:30 they start gently harassing us."

"I think we're aware and concerned somewhat" about the arena event, he said at the time. "Nobody really exactly knows what traffic's going to be on event night." But he said he expected further discussions about operations that day and, perhaps, city officials know but aren't telling.

The remote parking lots for the arena are along Atlantic Avenue near Boerum Place, and shuttle buses are supposed to start two hours before an event. If Atlantic Avenue isn't clear by 6 pm--and that seems doubtful--some drivers won't be able to get to the lots in the first place, and the shuttle buses would have start somewhat later.

The Quality of Life Committee

The current bi-monthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet system is being phased out, replaced by evening meetings of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet Quality of Life (QOL) Committee, to allow for more input from those most impacted by arena operations. Essentially, it responds to a request by Community Boards 2 and 6 in the liquor license process, though they asked for the process to start before the license was granted.

It also may mean less oversight and accountability, depending on whether and how city agencies and Forest City Ratner attend the new meetings and address a broad range of issues..

“We wanted to establish a process that allows organizations and groups impacted the greatest by arena operations to give input,” explained Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency in charge of the project. It’s sponsored by ESD, the Borough President’s office, and the offices of Council Members Letitia James and Steve Levin.

“We will be meeting in the evenings to allow people who live in the vicinity to participate,” she said. The process isn’t set, but representatives are expected from elected official, community boards, and major civic organizations. Public agencies will attend only as needed. Forest City Ratner would “participate,” Hankin said.

The first meeting is scheduled for October, and the committee will convene every other month. “In between those meetings,” Hankin said, “I'll be meeting with city agencies to deal with specific issues that arise with Quality of Life Committee.” Those meetings will not be public.

Forest City Ratner External Affairs VP Ashley Cotton noted that she’d attend the QOL Committee with the arena Community Affairs Manager, who hasn’t yet been hired.

Construction

Cotton repeated some of the information shared at a community meeting Wednesday night, citing a plan to notify the community monthly of the events schedule at the arena.

As for construction, she noted that company construction officials were not present, because “they are, you might imagine, 24/7.” She said “you can see the oculus, looking awfully complete... once you saw the swoop, it's pretty extraordinary to me.”

The new transit entrance is “going to be ready to open soon,” she said and the Carlton Avenue Bridge will reopen before the arena opens. The community will be informed soon of the planned opening date.

Meanwhile, sidewalks are being upgraded around the arena parking lot and the broadcast lot at Sixth Avenue and Dean Street, with extended work done voluntarily along Sixth up to Pacific and Vanderbilt north of Pacific.

Cotton added that groundbreaking on the first tower is planned “before the end of the year” and that a community affairs manager for the arena will be hired soon.

(Forest City also mentioned the Sept. 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony and the fact that a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy is expected next week.)

Litter

Daniel Stine, a Department of Sanitation official, explained that Forest City has “agreed to adopt 16 public litter baskets and 6 public recycling bins on the perimeter of the facility and also on blocks between the facility and the parking lot.”

“They're going to monitor those baskets, on days when we don't have normal pickups,” he said.

Photo by Tracy Collins from Sept. 5 community meeting
“Going forward, we're happy with the cooperation from Forest City Ratner, and we think it's going to work well on both sides.”

Cotton beamed. The previous night local residents asked for much more extensive garbage pickup.

Precinct change

Rob Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2, asked for an update on the procedure to change the precinct boundaries.

NYPD Captain Mike Sheehan explained that the 78th Precinct boundaries would change, as is well known, but didn’t provide specifics on exactly when it would be passed by the City Council

The pre-rusted cladding

Vogel cited recent reports about the pre-rusted arena skin, and asked “is this going to be dripping rust?”

No, said Forest City exec Jane Marshall. “When we selected it, we went through a very rigorous due-diligence process... We're not painting the facade, it's an industrial-looking facade with weathered steel, and no, we don't expect it to rust.”

Transportation plan

Hankin explained the major changes in the Final Transportation Demand Management plan released last month and aimed to discourage driving and increase use of public transit:
  • the elimination of an exit from the surface parking lot onto Vanderbilt Avenue, thus deterring driving in the neighborhood
  • a standard discount of 20% of $5, whichever is more, for HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) parking
  • a $10 surcharge for cars parking on the arena surface lot if they don’t prepurchase, plus an $10 surcharge if they don’t have three or more (HOV) people
  • elimination of a remote parking lot planned at Long Island College Hospital, given concerns that it might interfere with the hospital

Comments

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…