Skip to main content

In rebuttal to Markowitz, CM James and DDDB's Carponter appear on Channel 7

Complementing the Up Close with Diana Williams interview yesterday with Borough President Marty Markowitz was an interview with Council Member Letitia James and Candace Carponter of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

Markowitz vs. critics

Markowitz, the host stated, says naysayers just don't want change.

"This really is a textbook case on how not to do megadevelopment," declared James, who noted that the project was not approved by any local elected officials. She said most construction jobs went to people outside of Brooklyn... was not approved by any community board.

She said the number of local jobs was minimal, with most construction workers outside Brooklyn (true) and maybe outside New York City (not quite).

"The promise of 10,000 jobs... we even heard Marty say some were in steel mills in other states," Williams said.

Actually, that was 10,000 office jobs. Apples and oranges.

Carponter said numbers were "inflated to get approval... it was a major land grab for the developer... this is very, very valuable property... condos were selling on the edge of railyard for $650-700,000... The railyards were not pretty, but everything around it was developing organically."

Well, not everything was developing, because there was manufacturing zoning that needed to be changed--and it was, for some buildings--on a wholesale level.

The arena

Do you not like the arena, asked Williams.

"The arena is not very attractive," declared James. "It looks like 10,000 rusted toasters." She then segued to the issue of traffic: "We have been working... with regard to mitigation.. the community is bracing itself... because the developer did not provide any parking at all.... Individuals will be hunting for parking spaces."

Well, they will, but the issue isn't so much the lack of parking spaces, but how to deter driving, such as via residential permit parking.

"You've got a subway station," Williams countered.

"But the promise was [an arena-goer would] get a discount if you took the subway," James responded. "They reneged on that, as well." (Forest City said it couldn't work.)

What's next?

What about the future development, asked Williams, pointing to the start of the first tower in December.

Carponter noted that has been delayed repeatedly.

"I hear you saying this is not moving fast enough," Williams said.

"This project does not meet the needs of the residents of Brooklyn," James responded. "I knocked on hundreds if not thousands of doors... when you have public land, you should fill public need... and the need is not for basketball...

"We heard a guy who's really excited to have basketball," Williams said, citing one interviewee.

"Sure," said James, pivoting. "This is not about basketball per se.. this about responsible development, and using a public good for a public need."

"What is it do you want to see?"

Carponter pointed out that a court "has ruled the second phase can't go forward... we were lied to about duration... So the second phase can't go forward until we can determine whether that [plan] makes any sense in terms of the negative impacts." This was one of the first references I've seen to the cloud hanging over the project.

Who's to blame?

"Do you take any of the blame for delaying the project?" Williams asked.

"No, because the project from the time it was approved, 2010, they are still talking about a 25-year window, it has nothing to do with our litigation," Carponter said. The numbers never worked... Ratner has said they would need more subsidies." She pointed out that the first building would have nine affordable units for families at Brooklyn's median income.

A misleading reference

"The issue's not whether we ought to be blamed," James responded. "The issue is really about standing up and advocating for your community... against the abuse of  all is right.. This woman I know, and I'll always remember her, lived in footprint, she was a Holocaust survivor. She wanted to die in her home. She was 89 years old. She should've been allowed to die in her home and not suffer under the stress of being subject to eminent domain for a basketball arena."

Hold on: wouldn't we have heard such a dramatic story?

I checked with two people who should know, and was told there was an elderly Holocaust survivor who was stressed by eminent domain, but she was a commercial tenant, not a residential one. And there was an elderly woman in the footprint Victoria Harmon, who didn't want to move, and did end up dying at home.

Going to the arena

Would you ever set foot into that arena, asked Williams.

James said, "I was invited [to the opening], and I respectfully declined. I want to hold true to my principles." She then segued into campaign mode, saying she wanted to "make sure we can address the poverty we continue to see in the city of New York and provide jobs..." I suspect she may have to leave herself an out to visit the building.

"I'll never go there," Carponter said. "And it's heartbreaking to me, I understand its important to a lot of people in Brooklyn. For me, what's more important... to allow the project to go forward the way it's designed at this point is just wrong... What we hope is they allow more developers to come in... so whatever gets built gets built a little more organically, a little less high rise, more open space... certainly lots more affordable housing."

Of course there's a tension there too, because Forest City Ratner argues that only by building big can they build the subsidized housing.

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…