Friday, September 14, 2012

Daily News gets first look at new subway entrance opening Monday, accepts Forest City's claims about budget and timing; exec claims they don't want anyone driving to arena

Jeff Bachner/Daily News
Sycophantic Daily News Real Estate correspondent Jason Sheftell gets the exclusive look at the new subway entrance serving the Barclays Center arena that opens Monday morning--yes, it's an impressive addition, but a clearly self-serving one, especially given the revisionist mythology described below.

And Sheftell delivers, in an article today headlined First look at the $76 million Barclays Center subway station: A new station where Flatbush meets Atlantic in downtown Brooklyn will connect subway travelers on nine lines to the Barclays Center. He writes:
Life is about moments. So is New York City. The first time you see a doorman in a top hat and tails in front of the Plaza Hotel. When you lay eyes on the Statue of Liberty. Every time you take the Long Island Expressway to the Midtown Tunnel and the skyline opens up before you. Yankee Stadium. Landing at LaGuardia.
There’s a new one. Opening this Monday at 8 a.m., subway travelers on nine lines will be able to walk up the stairs of a new station where Flatbush meets Atlantic in downtown Brooklyn and see the rusted metal oculus of Barclays Center spread before them like a moment in a science-fiction film. It’s as grand as Lincoln Center, as Brooklyn as the Boys of Summer, and as New York as a skyscraper.
The cost and the financing

He continues:
It cost $76 million. No, it’s not paved in gold. But not a cent of it came from taxpayers’ pockets. Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), the developer of the arena, the housing around it, MetroTech and Atlantic Center Mall, agreed to pay for the station as part of financing in return for the air rights from the MTA above the arena’s plaza, where one day a world-class commercial building could stand.
Hold on. Maybe Forest City spent $76 million, in their accounting. The contract for the station is $57.8 million, according to a report from the construction monitor for arena bondholders.
And of course taxpayers helped: Forest City's commitment to build this was part of why the MTA accepted a $100 million cash bid for development rights for the Vanderbilt Yard--not just the area above the plaza--at less than half the appraised value.

Jeff Bachner/Daily News
The challenge

Bob Sanna, Forest City's construction chief, said the arena was way easier to build than the subway station, which required "138 repairs" below and a "giant piece of pizza jammed into the ground."

He called it "the single most complex job I have ever worked on." Unmentioned: it was supposed to open in April, according to the consultant.

Using mass transit

Sheftell quotes Forest City Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin: "The new entrance is the key component to making this arena work. Under no circumstances do we want anyone driving to the arena, ever.”

Ever? Is that why the Barclays Center website includes a link to prepaid parking? (Eric McClure of No Land Grab adds: "And why they're building a giant surface parking lot on Dean Street?")

“We want this to be magical,”  Gilmartin said. “The canopy, oculus, all of this is part of what will define Brooklyn for the next century. The amount of collaboration between city agencies that had to come together just for this one station is mind-boggling.”

Of course, the plan initially was for an Urban Room, an atrium within the office building that would deliver the tax revenues justifying the project.

Anthony Lanzilote for the Daily News
The MTA perspective

Sheftell writes:
From the MTA’s perspective, the station marks the kind of public and private dealmaking that attempts to place the city and its people first.
“There is a real disconnect in this country between real estate and mass transit,” says Joseph J. Lhota, chairman and CEO of the MTA. “In Asia, the mass transit companies are real estate companies. They build mass transit around big developments in order to enhance the value in the area. I give Ratner credit. This is part of a 30-year vision for downtown Brooklyn — MetroTech, Atlantic Yards and now Barclays. The job growth in downtown Brooklyn leads the entire city. How long are people going to criticize this project before they realize this is good for New York City?”
Yes, in Asia, they build mass transit first, then invite bids. This is not a vision proposed by a public agency but a developer taking advantage of an inside track.

And the MTA got far less than the appraised value, then acceded to Forest City's renegotiation request to put $20 million down and pay the remaining $80 million with a generous 6.5% interest rate.

Finishing on time

Sheftell writes:
At FCRC, it’s about accomplishment, pride and relief. Gilmartin and Sanna worked tirelessly with underground specialty contractor John Civetta & Sons to finish the station on time, which meant for the Jay-Z concert Sept. 28. If the station wasn’t complete, the arena opening would have been delayed.
“We were okay spending $76 million because we had no idea what we would find down there,” says Gilmartin. “But walking into Bruce Ratner’s office and telling him the arena can’t open because the subway station wasn’t done, well, that was something none of us ever considered doing.”
Below, see the consultant's report. The transit connection is way late--it's only on time if you consider opening it before the arena opens "on time."

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