Saturday, March 31, 2012

Atlantic Yards Watch: residents exasperated by loud noises at night; state agency asks Forest City not to use noisy hoe ram

From Atlantic Yards Watch:
Loud noises at night have triggered multiple incident reports filled with the exasperation of local residents in the last several days and weeks. One Dean Street resident last night shouted "Hey, you! Out there! I've got kids trying to sleep!" to a worker banging his crowbar against a fender in the staging area at 10:30 PM. In another case a resident on Vanderbilt reports a vibration so impactful artwork fell off the walls at 12:15 AM.
A resident on St. Mark's Avenue reports "intense pounding/crashing noises coming from the construction site as I write -- "and we are 3 blocks away with sound-proofed windows! ... How is this permissable?" St. Marks Avenue is uphill from the construction site and some rear windows have an unobstructed path for sounds emanating from the construction site. The filer reports noise extending to 1 AM on Wednesday night.
...These complaints follow last week's about late night jackhammering and loud booms. The jackhammering turned out to be a hoe ram which in response to complaints on this website, the ESDC states [March 23] it asked FCRC no longer to use at night. "I was woken up by incessant jackhammering that sounded like it was right outside my window. Then after it stopped I fell back asleep and was jolted awake again by a bomb like crash that shook the building and even knocked taped up artwork from the walls." The source of the "bomb like crash" has not been identified, but it may be the stacking of large metal plates.
Read more at AY Watch.

The "jackhammering" sound, 1:30 am, March 22

The Yonkers corruption case and the chances for a reversal

The Journal News, in Skeptical judge in Annabi case may consider bid to dismiss, reports that U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon had questioned the nature of a conspiracy in the corruption case in which former Yonkers City Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis, were convicted:
The primary argument by defense lawyers William Aronwald and Anthony Siano was that there was no evidence of any quid pro quo or meeting of the minds that Jereis’ payments came with the expectation Annabi would vote as he directed.

Prosecutors... countered that they had ample evidence of Jereis’ payments and Annabi’s official action and that the linchpin proving the corruption was the lengths the two went to to conceal their financial relationship..
Flaws in theory of the case?

The article quotes lawyer and political consultant Michael Edelman, who gave even odds to a reversal, at least on the corruption counts. (Annabi was also convicted of tax and mortgage fraud.)

The article states:
“Their theory of the case was that Jereis had paid this money in anticipation of a future obligation on the part of Annabi to vote for whatever he wanted her to vote for — that he owned her vote,” Edelman said. “If he owned her vote, why did she say no in the first place? Why did she refuse? Why did they have to hire all these people to persuade her if he owned her vote?”
That's not an unreasonable question. But politics isn't simple and the underlying criminal issue, I believe, is not whether Jereis "owned her vote" but whether he influenced it.

After Atlantic Terrace sells out condos, a search for a restaurant or gastropub close to arena for ground-floor space

Brownstoner reported March 29:
Atlantic Terrace, the co-op on Atlantic Avenue with both market- and affordable-rates units, has sold out. The buildings hits the milestone about one-and-a-half years after hitting the market. Heather Gershen, the director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, said “we’re very pleased from both the timing and the pricing perspective” and that all units are expected to close within the year.
It obviously took longest to sell the market-rate units; I pointed out last October that the pricing was way less than Forest City once expected, though if Forest City's modular plan comes to fruition, its costs will be lower, and the prices also will fall.

Eatery/drinkery coming?

At Atlantic Terrace, the developer is seeking a tenant to rent the three ground-floor commercial spaces, which could be combined. The listing points out that it's directly across the street--actually catercorner--from the Barclays Center arena:
  • 11,200 Square Feet-Divisible
  • +/- 200 Feet of Frontage with Two Corners on exceptionally high traffic thoroughfare
  • Located near Target, Office Depot, Pathmark, Men’s Wearhouse, Marshall’s, Old Navy, Chuck E. Cheese and many other national and local retailers
  • Could be ideal for family restaurant or gastropub.

If and when residential buildings are constructed on the arena block, and across the street over the railyard, presumably there would be even more foot traffic.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Forest City execs to investment analysts: arena revenues should stabilize in 2014; open to partner on AY housing (but don't need one), "well-positioned" in NY market for "multifamily products"

In a conference call today with investment analysts, Forest City Enterprises executives today didn't reveal much new about the Barclays Center arena, but added a bit of a gloss on details.

Chief Financial Officer Bob O'Brien said company executives had an opportunity to see the arena, calling it "a pretty amazing thing."

He said they were "pleased" with progress on the contractually obligated income for the arena, which he said would stabilize in 2014, the second year of operation

Note that the rise from 56% to 64%, while not insignificant, does not point to them reaching close to 100% by the time the arena opens.

AY housing

"Can you talk about the residential entitlements at Atlantic Yards," asked analyst Sheila McGrath in the lingo peculiar to those talking about the business of development. Is the company thinking of bringing in a partner?

Matt Messinger, Executive VP at Forest City Ratner, responded: "We’re focusing our efforts at the moment on the towers immediately around the arena, the first three residential towers... Our hope is break ground on that [first] building in the later part of this year. And then, we’re actively in predevelopment on the other towers, as well. That's wort of where our focus is at the moment."

(Note that they've pushed back the groundbreaking date for that first tower, B2, numerous times.)

Messinger said the company has taken on partners with other projects, such as the 80 DeKalb apartment tower: "we continue to look at cost of capital and take on partners as appropriate."

O'Brien said the company, while always exploring options for partnership: "We're prepared, and want to move forward with the first tower at Atlantic Yards before the end of the year, and we're committed to do so. It's not contingent upon obtaining a partner. But we're looking at it as a way to enhance and expand the kind of capital sources we can utilize to activate the entitlement that we have."

The first three buildings, O'Brien said, represents about 1.4 million square feet: "There's obviously, beyond that, another 4 to 5 million square feet of entitlement, not all of which is obviously yet ready to go. But we think, long term, we’re well positioned in the New York marketplace to bring on multifamily product, over many number of years. It's a product type that, obviously, from a performance standpoint, has done well, and there continues to be significant demand. So we feel like our pipeline matches up well with future market needs."

Do they tell housing advocates like their partner Bertha Lewis the same thing?

Ridge Hill

For a reporter who spent the last six weeks listening to talk about Forest City's Ridge Hill project in Yonkers in the context of a corruption trial, it was a little bit cognitively dissonant to hear investment analysts focusing firmly on issues like “lease-up.”

The EBDT Bridge

Note how, as announced yesterday, the Nets are a drag on corporate earnings.

In Daily News, Bruce Ratner packs multiple lies into one sentence: "For 100 years, this was a train depot in the middle of downtown Brooklyn."

Bruce Ratner tells the New York Daily News, "For 100 years, this was a train depot in the middle of downtown Brooklyn. Now it’s the greatest arena I’ve ever seen.”

No, it wasn't.

About half the arena site was a railyard used to store and service trains. The rest consisted of buildings where people lived and worked, as well as a public street.

Nor was that a depot, in the common definition: a "building for railroad or bus passengers or freight."

Nor was it "in the middle of downtown Brooklyn" but rather in Prospect Heights. And even if you consider the arena site an extension of Downtown Brooklyn--as Forest City surely will argue--it's by no stretch of the imagination in the middle.

"Extreme joy"

The cheerleading piece is by real estate correspondent Jason Sheftell, known for real estate hype. At least the author doesn't call it Downtown Brooklyn:
Even in midconstruction, there are moments touring the Barclays Center in Prospect Heights when you can’t help but feel extreme joy
...It’s not just that pro sports are back in the borough for the first time since 1957; it’s the arena’s shape, design, intent, location, housing, public space and stubborn persistence it took to get this here.
Note that Ratner continues to call the arena "the first truly 21st-century building in New York City," which surely he'd have said about the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Tower.

Local fallout regarding Yonkers trial: newspaper laments corruption, columnist argues that, in the end, Ridge Hill is good for Yonkers

The Journal News has a good package of articles and commentary (and video) responding to yesterday's convictions, on all counts, of former City Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis.

The editorial, Annabi trial ends, but corruption will linger, stated:
The smitten-cousin defense, novel and intriguing as it was, ultimately was no match for common sense, or the Rolex watch, car payments, airfare, cash or other valuables that moved between former Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her distant cousin, one-time Yonkers Republican Party Chairman Zehy Jereis, convicted Thursday of all charges in their federal corruption trial.
There was some plausibility to that defense, actually, given that Jereis also went through a dramatic personal makeover, including a 150-pound weight loss, which he said was motivated by his desire for Annabi.

Then again, as prosecutors pointed out, the checks to Annabi came from a joint account Jereis shared with his wife, while he and Annabi talked 81 times on "job fair day" and only four times on Valentine's Day. 

Very confusing. Could it be that Jereis had the hots for Annabi and also wanted to influence her, and/or she treated him as a "sugar daddy" but also took his political advice? If so, that's still basis for guilt, prosecutors said, since friendship doesn't get you off the hook.

More investigations

The Journal News saw the prosecutions part of a long history, and predicted more:
So went another chapter in the annals of public corruption in New York and the Lower Hudson Valley. It is an old and tedious story. In February, former longtime state Sen. Nicholas Spano, a Yonkers Republican, pleaded guilty to tax evasion, in a case where public corruption also figured prominently.
...Spano’s undoing closely follows that of former state Sen. Vincent Leibell, for long the most powerful Republican in Putnam County.
As noted yesterday, prosecutors said the investigation is continuing.

Turning point?

In a reaction article headlined 'Slam dunk' verdict called 'turning point' for Yonkers, the newspaper got that headline quote from Mayor Mike Spano, bother of Nick:
“This says, very clearly and very loudly, ‘If you are elected, you are entrusted with public dollars — and if you are in any way complicit in taking illegal gifts, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Spano said.
The city is improving its ethics code, but Spano is not immune to whispers. A Republican turned Democrat, he hired Jereis's wife at City Hall. And, in anonymous comments at the Yonkers Tribune, some went after him, with one warning:
Mike Spano will not finish a four year term.
Before it's over, both Zehy and Sandy will bury him in order to cut a deal.
A defense of Ridge Hill

Photo copyright Jonathan Barkey
Journal News columnist Phil Reisman suggested, On Ridge Hill, Annabi's vote was right for Yonkers:
Because of Ridge Hill, Yonkers presents a direct challenge to White Plains as the county’s dominant retail center.
Built by the mega-development firm Forest City Ratner, Ridge Hill was not without tremendous controversy, as everything in Yonkers always is.
But you could make the reasonable argument that Ridge Hill is the best thing to happen to Yonkers since Neil Simon wrote a play about getting lost there.
Reisman has a point--Ridge Hill is nice and shiny in a city that, overall, is not--but he sounds not unlike  some Barclays Center defenders: who cares if it's a sweetheart deal for the developer, since it produces some good for the community?

A former Council Member, Dee Barbato, testified that the annual payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) negotiated by Forest City Ratner were less than half those paid by a shopping center one-third the size. The additional $10.8 million Annabi negotiated was just a one-shot.

Lingering questions: Forest City

Reisman wrote:
There are a lot of fishy things about this case, a host of unanswered questions. One of them is why nobody at Forest City was ever implicated in the Ridge Hill part of the bribery scheme. We may never know the answer to that question.
Because it was never quite a bribe, just "corrupt payments." Forest City reps said they never knew Jereis was influencing Annabi. 

Photo copyright Jonathan Barkey
Still, when Forest City government relations chief Bruce Bender was asked if they promised Jereis a job before Annabi’s vote, he said, "It was inconclusive, but we certainly left the impression we were probably going to do it."

That's fishy, indeed. And, as I wrote, while Forest City may say the trial wasn't about them, it was, at least in part.

Lingering questions: reversal

Reisman suggested that "[s]ome people who have watched the trial closely believe the jury was confused by the complexity of the charges" and that Annabi and Jereis may see their corruption convictions overturned:
Indeed, Annabi may only go to jail for mortgage fraud — an offense that could be tagged to half the underwater homeowners in America and the crooked bankers who enabled them.
Actually, Annabi also was convicted of tax fraud, claiming a $50,000 loss on a loan to her father that prosecutors contended, and jurors agreed, was bogus.

Reisman's right that there's a fighting chance of reversal.

But there's also a chance that, if the verdict stands, Annabi and Jereis will cooperate to reduce their sentences, and more of the mystery of Ridge Hill will be uncovered.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Developer comments on Yonkers verdict: "This trial was not about the actions of Forest City Ratner" (not quite)

A tidbit from the expanded New York Times coverage of the Yonkers corruption trial verdict:
“This trial was not about the actions of Forest City Ratner,” the company said Thursday, adding it had “no knowledge of the financial relationship between Ms. [Sandy] Annabi and Mr. [Zehy] Jereis.”
Well, it wasn't, and it was about Forest City Ratner.

After all, would Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone, who ran the government relations office and hired Zehy Jereis as a reward for his helping get Council Member Sandy Annabi to flip her vote, still be with Forest City if there weren't some clouds over that behavior?

Yes, Bender and Cantone testified, they had no knowledge about the financial relationship between Annabi and Jereis. But they also made no effort to check for his criminal record, or to request the reports Jereis was supposed to send in to validate his no-show consulting job. And they made sure he got paid.

That, as Greg David of Crain's New York Business--generally a friend to Forest City--might put it, sounds like "See no evil, hear no evil."

And the trial surely illuminated actions that, while not claimed as illegal, seem to violate the company's code of conduct, which bars "improper payment or promise of same."

Forest City reports additional losses on Nets, 64% of forecasted arena revenues under contract

Forest City Enterprises, parent of Forest City Ratner, issued full-year and fourth-quarter earnings today, citing record-setting EBDT (Earnings Before Depreciation, Amortization and Deferred Taxes) of $1.61, compared with $1.59 per share for fiscal 2010.

However, for 2011, the net loss attributable to Forest City Enterprises, Inc., was $86.5 million, or $0.52 per share, compared with net earnings of $58.0 million, or $0.34 per share, in 2010.  Why? Forest City made less money on property sales and joint ventures, and lost money by deciding "to strategically reposition the company's land business through sale or other disposition."

Nets losses, arena revenue

Losses on the Nets also hurt, as the company is absorbing additional losses after the amount in the red exceeded the $60 million cap on losses accepted by team owner Mikhail Prokhorov when he bought the team.

The company also reported that some "64 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the [Barclays Center] arena are currently under contract," a not insignificant rise from the 56 percent reported in December.

Still, with six months to go before the arena opens in, if that rate of growth continues, the 100 percent mark, which Forest City has admitted it won't meet, will be a good margin away.

(Contractually obligated income, which includes revenue from naming rights, sponsorships, suite licenses, Nets minimum rent and food concession agreements, accounts for 72 percent of total forecasted revenues for the arena.)

Transition time

David J. LaRue, Forest City president and CEO, said, "We also entered a period of important transition as three major projects – 8 Spruce Street, Westchester's Ridge Hill and, later this year, the Barclays Center arena – move from our under-construction pipeline to our operating portfolio. The transition of these properties, at a total cost of $1.6 billion at our pro-rata share, will dramatically decrease the total cost of projects under construction and meaningfully improve our risk profile. Just as important, as these properties come on line and stabilize, we believe they will also contribute significantly to future income and net asset value."

Losses on the Nets

The press release stated:
The Nets provided a pre-tax EBDT decrease of $46.2 million, primarily due to the nonrecurring 2010 gain on disposition of partial interest of $31.4 million and the increase in the company's allocated share of losses of $14.8 million. As previously disclosed, during the second quarter of 2011, entities controlled by Mikhail Prokhorov reached a $60 million capped commitment to fund team losses prior to the opening of the Barclays Center arena, resulting in Forest City receiving a larger share of interim losses.
Under construction

The press release stated:
Lease-up continues at 8 Spruce Street in lower Manhattan. As of March 12, 655 leases had been executed, representing 73 percent of the total 899 units at completion, with rents at or above pro-forma for the units leased to date. More than 590 units are already occupied.
At Westchester's Ridge Hill, new tenant leases executed during the fourth quarter included retailers Victoria's Secret, The Limited, White House Black Market, Bath & Body Works, and Vera Bradley. A mid-April opening has been set for anchor Lord & Taylor's 80,000-square-foot full-line store. The center is currently 59 percent leased.
...Construction at the Barclays Center arena at Atlantic Yards is on schedule for opening in September 2012. More than 95 percent of steel erection has been completed, interior build-out is actively underway, and the structure is expected to be fully enclosed and water tight in the first quarter of 2012. Approximately 64 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the arena are currently under contract.


In Yonkers corruption case, Annabi and Jereis found guilty on all counts, after more than four days of deliberation

After five weeks of testimony and more than four days of deliberation, a federal jury today found former Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis, guilty of several corruption counts, including extortion and  conspiracy to give and receive corrupt payments, regarding Annabi's vote flips to support two development projects, including Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill.

Neither was charged with bribery (which was in the initial indictment) but rather "corrupt payments," related to the $174,000 (including a $60,000 loan promptly repaid) Jereis gave to Annabi over seven years, offering down payments for real estate and paying her bills.

Jereis claimed it was for love. Annabi didn't testify, though her lawyer argued that, even if she was leading on a sugar daddy, that wasn't a crime. Jurors apparently concluded that, even if Jereis desired Annabi, as he testified, he had mixed motives. Prosecutors said friendship was not an excuse.

(Jereis got far less from the developers he worked with in this case than the money he gave Annabi. He may have been expecting he would get more, or got more from other cases not uncovered, or, rather, spent money he made through other means.)

The extortion charges related to a second development project, Longfellow, by Milio Management.

The Journal News reported:
On the conspiracy charge, jurors had to unanimously find that Annabi and Jereis had commited at least one of 26 “overt acts.” They found three: that Annabi had failed to include Jereis’ payments to her on her financial disclosure reports as a councilwoman; that she and Jereis had met with executives of developers Forest City Ratner regarding Ridge Hill on June 9, 2006; and that on July 25, 2006 she sent an email to her adminjsitrative assistant directing her not to put the Longfellow legislation on the next month’s agenda and to call “Z” – Jereis – and let him know that the Longfellow legislation had to be revised.
Ongoing investigation

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated, in a press release (below): “Today’s convictions of Sandy Annabi and Zehy Jereis on all counts are a victory for the citizens of Yonkers who – like all Americans – deserve fair and honest government, and not government driven by bribes and riven with backroom deals."

As noted in the press release, the Department of Justice said that the investigation is ongoing. Indeed, the trial raised questions about the behavior of other elected officials, notably state Sen. Tom Libous, said by witness Anthony Mangone to have gotten his son a job at Mangone's law firm and directed payments to that firm via a murky company.

Forest City Ratner was not charged and has said it's not a target for investigation. Still, if Annabi and Jereis don't succeed in their appeals, or efforts to get the verdict dismissed, it would be interesting to see if either have anything more to share about the developer's behavior.

Potential prison terms, potential appeal

While the two could potentially face decades in prison, as noted in the press release, Annabi under sentencing guidelines faces 12 to 15 years and Jereis 14 to 17 years, according to the Journal News. Lawyers for both said they planned an appeal.

As noted in the New York Times, there may be grounds for an appeal, or even judicial action in response to post-verdict motions:
After the government had rested its case, Judge [Colleen] McMahon raised questions, out of the jury’s presence, about whether prosecutors had proved a major part of their corruption case against Ms. Annabi, which related to the Ridge Hill project.
The Ridge Hill case

Indeed, with Ridge Hill, there was no explicit quid pro quo, though the trial cast light on the less than pristine ways Forest City Ratner got its project passed.

The Yonkers City Council supported Ridge Hill 4-3, but the developer needed a fifth vote because of a supermajority requirement imposted by Westchester County.

Forest City couldn't get a meeting with Annabi until its reps were introduced to Jereis thanks to a lunch organized by a friend of Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol. Jereis said he'd try to get them a meeting, and then asked for a job.

Within two weeks, Annabi had agreed to change her vote, ostensibly because Forest City would pay an additional $10.8 million in taxes, an offer that prosecutors said had been made before. Jereis continued to ask for a job, but was put off by Forest City, even though they left the impression with him that he'd be hired.

Annabi voted for Ridge Hill on 7/11/06. Jereis was sent a contract, backdated to August 1, in September, and returned it in October, along with an invoice. One Forest City rep sent the invoice back, considering it inadequate.

In December, the assistant to Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone, the two Forest City Ratner governmental relations reps, sent a message within the company ensuring that Jereis would get paid for three months.

He never submitted required reports, nor was asked to do so. However, when news of the investigation surfaced in March 2007, he hastily sent in seven months of reports, assisted by a friend.

Bender and Cantone, who testified in the trial, have since left the company--a sign, perhaps, of the developer's desire to distance itself from the staffers closest to the corruption case.

Even though Forest City was not charged, even supporters of the company, like Crain's New York Business columnist Greg David, expressed dismay at the "See no evil, hear no evil" business practices.

The press release

The Department of Justice issued a press release:
Annabi Convicted for Accepting Nearly $200,000 in Bribes and for Filing False Tax Returns Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that SANDY ANNABI, the former Democratic Majority Leader of the Yonkers City Council, and ZEHY JEREIS, the former head of the Yonkers Republican Party, were found guilty today by a jury in Manhattan federal court of public corruption crimes.  ANNABI and JEREIS were convicted for participating in bribery schemes related to her position on the Yonkers City Council as well as the actions they took to conceal these schemes. ANNABI was also convicted of making false statements to financial institutions related to loans she was seeking for two houses and an apartment in Yonkers, New York, and for filing false federal income tax returns. They were convicted on all counts after a seven-week trial before U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated:  “Today’s convictions of Sandy Annabi and Zehy Jereis on all counts are a victory for the citizens of Yonkers who – like all Americans – deserve fair and honest government, and not government driven by bribes and riven with backroom deals.  These guilty verdicts are yet another clarion call to corrupt public officials and those who contemplate buying their influence, that we will do everything within our power to root out, prosecute and punish this conduct.  It is conduct that erodes the public’s trust and confidence in government and poisons the legislative process.”
According to the evidence at trial and the superseding Indictment originally filed in White Plains federal court:
ANNABI was first elected to the Yonkers City Council in November 2001 to represent the Second District and was subsequently re-elected in 2003 and 2005.   She served as the Democratic Majority Leader of the Council during the latter part of her third term in office.  The Yonkers City Council’s primary function is to consider and vote on the city’s budget, zoning changes, and other legislation.  ZEHY JEREIS served as Chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party from the fall of 2003 through the fall of 2007.  As the Party Chairman, his duties were to promote the Republican Party in Yonkers and to advance the interests of Republican elected officials and candidates.   JEREIS used his considerable influence and contacts to assist ANNABI with all three of her successful campaigns.
Since 2001, ANNABI received nearly $200,000 in secret payments from JEREIS and others in exchange for taking favorable actions in her official capacity on matters in which they had an interest and that were pending before the City Council.  These matters included two real estate projects known as the Longfellow Project and the Ridge Hill Development project.

The Longfellow Project
In 2003, Yonkers developer Milio Management was seeking to redevelop an area of land, known as the Longfellow Project, which was partially located within the Council District represented by ANNABI.  During a City Council meeting on June 14, 2005, ANNABI proclaimed her strong opposition to the project, stating:  “Even if the entire community supported [it], I would be opposed.”  She also said that the project was “outrageous” and a “slap in the face to the taxpayers of Yonkers.”  Despite considerable effort, Milio Management was unable to move the project forward in the face of ANNABI’s opposition.
 In April 2006, Milio Management hired Westchester County attorney Anthony Mangone to assist in persuading ANNABI to support the Longfellow Project.  Shortly thereafter, Mangone arranged a meeting between a representative of Milio Management and JEREIS.  During the meeting, JEREIS advised the representative that he could help persuade ANNABI to support the project.  Later, Mangone told Milio Management that in order for the project to proceed, the developer would have to pay ANNABI $30,000 in exchange for her support.  In the summer of 2006, Milio Management gave Mangone $30,000 in cash for ANNABI.  Mangone then gave $20,000 in cash to JEREIS to give to ANNABI.  At a City Council meeting that September, ANNABI reversed her long-held opposition to the Longfellow Project and voted in favor of awarding it to Milio Management.  Shortly after receiving the $20,000, ANNABI made several substantial cash and credit card purchases, including airline ticket upgrades, a Rolex watch, and a diamond necklace.

The Ridge Hill Project
The Ridge Hill Project was a proposal by developer Forest City Ratner to develop an 81-acre tract of land into retail, restaurant, and office space with hundreds of residential housing units, a hotel, and a conference center.  ANNABI was an outspoken critic of the proposed Ridge Hill Project and voted against both the project as well as legislation that would allow it to move forward over her opposition.  ANNABI and others also filed a civil lawsuit to effectively block the project.  As the City Council was considering the Ridge Hill Project, Forest City Ratner made repeated and unsuccessful efforts to convince ANNABI to vote in favor of the project.
On June 2, 2006, after being introduced to representatives of Forest City Ratner, JEREIS advised them that he could arrange a meeting for them with ANNABI.   JEREIS and representatives of Forest City Ratner also had an agreement in which the developer would give him a consulting job sometime after ANNABI formally voted in favor of the Ridge Hill Project.  After two meetings with JEREIS and Forest City Renter’s representatives, which were held five days apart, ANNABI reversed her opposition to the Ridge Hill Project.  On June 15, 2006, she issued a press release – drafted by JEREIS and representatives of Forest City Ratner – informing the public of her support for the project.  One month later, at a City Council meeting on July 11, 2006, ANNABI voted in favor of the zoning change necessary for the Ridge Hill Project.  Shortly after ANNABI changed her vote on the Ridge Hill Project, JEREIS received the promised consulting contract from Forest City Ratner worth $60,000 over one year.
Other Secret Payments to Annabi and Efforts to Conceal These Payments
JEREIS also secretly gave ANNABI money and purported loans to finance the purchase of two residential properties located outside of her Council District.  To obtain favorable financing, ANNABI contemporaneously submitted applications to two different banks, advising both that she intended to occupy the house for which she was seeking financing and concealing that she was seeking to borrow money from the other bank for a second house.  The closings for the two loans occurred only three days apart.  Furthermore, ANNABI lived in one of these houses, which was outside of her Council District, despite state and local laws that required her as a Councilmember to live within her District.  JEREIS then purchased a cooperative apartment for ANNABI within her Council District so she could meet the residency requirement.  JEREIS paid the down payment on the apartment and made the monthly mortgage payments.  In addition, in her loan applications for one of the houses and for the apartment she purchased, ANNABI falsely inflated her income.  Her loan applications also included fake pay stubs, W-2's, and bank statements.
From 2002 through 2007, ANNABI affirmatively concealed the illegal benefits she received from JEREIS and others by filing annual financial disclosure statements that intentionally omitted the illegal payments.  ANNABI also failed to report the illegal payments she received on federal income tax returns.
*                    *                 *
ANNABI, 41, and JEREIS, 40, both of Yonkers, New York, were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to make and accept corrupt payments, one count of conspiracy to deprive the City of Yonkers and its citizens of ANNABI’s honest services, one count of receiving corrupt payments, and one count of extortion.  ANNABI was also convicted of one count of receiving corrupt payments, three counts of making false statements to a bank, and two counts of filing false tax returns.  JEREIS was also convicted of one count of making corrupt payments.

ANNABI faces a maximum sentence of 161 years in prison, and JEREIS faces a maximum sentence of 65 years in prison.
Mangone was initially charged with ANNABI and JEREIS in January 2010.  He pled guilty on November 29, 2010 to conspiracy, bribery, extortion, and tax evasion charges and is awaiting sentencing.
Mr. Bharara praised the work of the FBI and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division.  He added that the investigation is ongoing.
The case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason P.W. Halperin and Perry A. Carbone are in charge of the prosecution.

Watching the Nets in Newark: an inexpensive trip, but not necessarily a bargain

The hype mounts for the Barclays Center, though less so for the team that will play there.

With an interior based on the basketball-first Conseco Fieldhouse (now Bankers Life) in Indianapolis, it's supposed to be a great place to watch hoops, though if the talent on the court isn't much, the novelty of a new building will wear off faster. (See some snark from Orlando, as well as doubts even from Nets fans.)

And recently, as even the fan site NetsDaily acknowledged, it was a Bad Day For Nets Front Office, with the team, widely described as the frontrunner in the race to sign superstar Orlando center Dwight Howard, was unable to land Howard, who will stay for one more year. Though the team traded for a solid but aging player in Gerald Wallace, the likelihood that star guard Deron Williams will decamp for Dallas has grown.

(Imagine: what if the sports press, with its willingness to report rumors and other unverified, not-quite-sourced statements, turned its focus, for just one day, to try to clarify such things as the Carlton Avenue Bridge timetable?)

But the team's "Jersey Strong, Brooklyn Ready" slogan has not done the trick, as the Prudential Center has drawn small crowds and, as noted by the Daily News' Stefan Bondy, the focus on Brooklyn has taken its toll on the team.

Last night, the Nets had a big win, but they drew only an announced 10,187 (55%) in a building that seats 18,500 for basketball.

Nets/Newark vs. LIU/Brooklyn

Several news cycles ago, before the Howard discussion crested, and before (and after) the Linsanity hype, I traveled with a Brooklyn friend to the Prudential Center in Newark on Friday night February 3, when the Nets played the Minnesota Timberwolves. I do like basketball, and I wanted to see how things were going in Newark.

The game wasn't bad, and the tickets were cheap. I got two-for-one $30 seats, plus a $10 handling charge, for $40. But two $10 concession cards were thrown in. So each seat--decent but not great location-- essentially cost $10. For even less popular games, the cheapest seats have been available on StubHub for a penny, plus handling.

For a Brooklynite using public transit, I can't say the experience, even at the low prices, was really worth it. The trip takes a while. The team is uneven. And the relentless hype that characterizes the Brett Yormark Nets has been amped up another notch.

As a control, the same friend and I took a much shorter trip to watch Long Island University host Brooklyn rival St. Francis College, on February 12. LIU's nifty Wellness Center gym seats 2500, but was about 80% full, which--given the freebies (like I got, thanks) and the local rivalry--seemed not quite full enough. LIU will get exposure at a couple of Barclays Center games next season, but I can't see how they'll sell out.

At the smaller LIU court, just five minutes from the DeKalb Avenue subway stop, the game was good fun. No one searched our bags. Every spectator was close enough to see--and feel--the action and the stomp of "Dee-fense." No sponsor intruded, other than a minimalist Ruby Tuesday banner. The dancers could throw t-shirts to the crowd without using a cannon. And the LIU Pep Band was rocking.

So playing at the Barclays Center will boost LIU's name--and perhaps build the basketball program so the team goes beyond the first round in the NCAA tournament. But I can't imagine the experience will be much better.

Getting to Newark

The trip to Newark from Brooklyn, even starting in Park Slope/Gowanus, is not a simple one. Yes, the R train from Union Street does go to Cortland Street relatively near the PATH station at the World Trade Center site, but it's a ten-minute walk to the PATH tracks.

The PATH train took 22 minutes to Newark. It was about a seven-minute walk to the arena. The Brooklyn arena will surely be a step up, with an underground walk and one long staircase from one end of the subway hub, at least for subway riders. (Those on the LIRR will have to go outside.)

The return trip was a lot tougher--less so on the PATH (though Forest City Ratner's Ashley Cotton had her frustrations at a more recent game), but the long wait for the R. Obviously the MTA has not been pushed to accommodate the fractional number of fans returning from Newark.

In Newark, the walk to the arena through a not-thriving part of downtown seems safe, though the comparison with Brooklyn, where thriving retail/residential streets border the arena, is significant. Newark has been little changed by the arena. The urban site is still surrounded significantly by parking lots, and neither gentrification nor full occupancy has come to the arteries of Market and Broad streets.

Newark streets bordering the arena are still shut down for events--a situation that has alarmed Brooklynites who wonder, despite assurances to the contrary, that a lane of Flatbush and/or Atlantic Avenue would shut down. And yes, people walk in the street after games--another issue for the Brooklyn arena.

Before entering the Prudential Center,, loudspeakers greeted visitors with various warnings and advice, including that there is no re-admission for those who leave. That kind of announcement must be why New York City requires a 200-foot distance between sports facilities and residences, a zoning provision that the state has overridden in the case of the Brooklyn arena. Folks living on Dean Street--sorry.

Despite promises that it stays open before every Devils and Nets home game, the legendary Hobby's deli, located on a grungy corner two blocks west of the arena (which means those walking from Newark's Penn Station must overshoot it), was not open that night. Maybe Nets games don't deliver enough fans.

There was at least one new restaurant since I last visited Newark a few years ago, for a Nets exhibition game. About a year ago, Uber Burger opened in the southwest corner of the arena complex.

(It wasn't clear to me that it was part of the building.)

The food was marginally better/cheaper than inside the building. The beer? Well, $7 for a bottle at Uber Burger seemed steep, but the cashier explained that they have "event pricing."

That's annoying. Even more annoying, and possibly violating consumer protection laws: Uber Burger did not list individual beer prices on the menu or other signage.

At the game

The announced attendance of 15,069, or 81.5% of capacity, had to be overstated. There were lots of empty seats, as well as sections all over the place--especially at the suite level. The photo above was taken at the beginning of the game, before everybody had taken their seats; the section did fill up a good deal more, though I'm not sure if whether that was only latecomers or whether some lucky fans got an upgrade.

Several concession stands at the second level--serving two levels of seating--were closed, a sign they're just not doing enough business. It made for a listless feel.

The Prudential Center is not a bad place to see a basketball game, but it's not a great place, either. The floor is clearly built for the main tenant, that New Jersey urban sport of hockey. When Brooklyn arena boosters say the arena is built for hoops, they're right. (And that's why it'll be hard to shoehorn the Islanders into the Barclays Center, though it's not out of the question.)

A large segment of attendees were not paying full price, or perhaps not even paying. Various civic groups get free tickets, thanks to some player charities and other promotions.

Another group welcomed: those arriving via Living Social, the Groupon-like half-price (or more) marketing effort. There were virtually no mobile vendors in our section.

What did $20 in concession cards (+ $1.25) buy? One sausage sandwich (mediocre), one small (but large) fries (very salty, not bad), one small (but large) lemonade (very sweet), one soft ice cream sundae (decent).

The Beers of the World (also planned for Brooklyn, though likely with a different array) seemed uninspiring, as indicated in the photo below.

New ways to hype

Uber-marketer Brett Yormark, yes, has figured out even more ways to attach sponsorship.

Would you believe that every time the Nets Dancers performed, we were told the name of the spa credited for doing their hair?

Did the pep squad Team Hype have its own sponsor the last game I saw? Not sure. (As the screenshot below indicates, the Nets Dancers now have three sponsors.)

The Nets' new announcer, David Diamante, was suitably energized when the home team scored and studiously neutral when announcing, say, the name of an opposing player who just hit a three.

And while it's understandable that the public address system shows replays of excellent home team plays, it's annoying that arena-goers--unlike those watching on TV--could not get a replay of a great play by the visitors.

Diamante sounded especially smooth when he announced the Nets Dancers. Was I hearing a tiny trace of his experience DJing at strip clubs? Well, given the look-at-me brassiere-tops worn by the Danders during one number, the association wasn't a stretch.

Oh, the basketball game? It was pretty good. The Nets' Anthony Morrow had his best game ever, the shorthanded Nets clawed back, the Wolves' backup center dominated inside, and the Wolves' heralded rookie point guard Ricky Rubio--now injured--made more spectacular passes than he threw away.

Then again, I missed a bunch of the action because I was on line buying refreshments and there were not screens positioned for all of us waiting.

It'll all change, right, when they come to Brooklyn?

Yonkers trial jury today enters fifth day of deliberations

From the Journal News:
All the parties have fallen into a "wait and see" rhythm, prosecutors in an office downstairs, lawyers for [defendants Sandy] Annabi and [Zehy] Jereis at the defense table. Jereis spent much of the day in the hallway outside U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon's 14th floor courtroom. Annabi sat reading the Bible in a conference room. She said she couldn't talk to a reporter while the case was pending, but pointed out one passage that was her focus, Psalms 7, entitled God the Vindicator, and said simply that's what she was counting on.

Also in the courtroom, as I observed yesterday afternoon: several journalists, a couple of supporters of the defendants, and several investigators on the project. And, yes, a Forest City Ratner rep.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

FAC's Michelle de la Uz is appointed (by de Blasio) to City Planning Commission

Well, on a City Planning Commission dominated by mayoral appointees, one person can't sway the body, but it's certainly a non-Bloomberg-esque move for Public Advocate Bill de Blasio to appoint Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee.

Perhaps de la Uz, whose group is a member of BrooklynSpeaks, may have some advice for the Planning Commission on the surface parking lot planned for the southeast block of Atlantic Yards.

At the very least, she might provide some real-world perspective on the project (as, presumably, Borough President Marty Markowitz's appointment, Shirley McRae, also does).

A press release from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio:

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio today announced he has designated Michelle de la Uz as his appointee to the City Planning Commission. De la Uz has more than twenty years of experience in public service and real estate development. Since 2004, de la Uz has served as Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, one of the nation’s most successful comprehensive community development corporations and nonprofit housing developers. De la Uz will appear before the City Council later today as part of the confirmation process.

“Michelle knows how to get things done. At a time when we need to put people to work and build affordable housing, we need someone with Michelle's expertise getting shovels in the ground. She will make a superb addition to the City Planning Commission,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

“I’ve devoted my professional life to making this city and its diverse neighborhoods a better place for all New Yorkers to live and work. Every development project or land use decision is an opportunity to grow our economy, lift people up and build a more livable city. I am excited to bring my experience as a community leader, a housing advocate and a Brooklynite to the Commission,” said Michelle de la Uz.

As Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, de la Uz oversaw the development of New York State's first LEED Platinum supportive housing project. The number of projects in the agency's real estate pipeline has increased five-fold during her tenure. Prior to the Fifth Avenue Committee, de la Uz served as Program Director for the Center for Urban Community Services in Washington Heights and Harlem, and oversaw social services in supportive housing for 400 low-income tenants with special needs. She holds a B.A. from Connecticut College, completed a Master of Science degree in Social Work and graduate studies in Public Administration at Columbia University, and recently completed the Achieving Excellence in Community Development Executive Education program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

If approved by the Council today, de la Uz will be formally appointed by the Public Advocate immediately.

Bruce Ratner on fawning CEO Radio: "I always felt kind of special" traveling to Brooklyn

You wouldn't expect a series of minute-long interviews last month with Bruce Ratner on CEO Radio, a collaboration between WCBS NewsRadio and the Wall Street Journal, to be too hard-hitting. After all, the show's slogan is upbeat:
Ray Hoffman interviews CEOs about their business practices. Learn what it takes to be at the top of your business game!
But there are some nuggets amid the puffery, although the package can't match the awesome duet earlier this month between Charlie Rose and Ratner.

Part 1

Ratner, says the host, "may be the most important figure in the history of Brooklyn since the Dodgers left," given the work his firm has done "to transform the face of Brooklyn, including now the new Barclays Center."

The most important figure? Well, Ratner's certainly up there, but I bet supporters of longtime Borough President Howard Golden would disagree.

But when he was growing up, that wasn't his goal. "I came out of the '60s, and so I thought I would wind up going into some sort of public interest law," Ratner tells his interviewer, noting he "did 12 years of public interest," either teach law or government service. (He sure likes to invoke the '60s.)

Part 2

Under Mayor John Linsday, Ratner became one of New York's highest profile consumer advocates, getting a job with the city the old fashioned way--via a request from a former professor to run a unit with streetfront lawyers.

Part 3

Ratner learned Brooklyn from the ground up, we're told, "first as head of a group of storefront lawyers fighting ripoff artsts in the days before consumer protection laws," then in the late 1970s, serving as Commissioner of Consumer Affairs under Mayor Ed Koch.

"I was 33 years old," Ratner reflects. "I often say, Mayor, you gave me the best job of my life."

Part 4

As Consumer Affairs Commissioner, we're told, Ratner "became the master of the press release," for example discussing consumer prices when inflation was rampant. (I'd suggest his efforts with the press are way more extensive these days.)

Part 5

"There are so many things we take for granted, whether it be food labeling, whether it be laws on credit, that people had to be told about," Ratner says, because "those laws were just beginning to be legislated." So he "kept up a whirlwind schedule."

Part 6

Ratner tells his interviewer that, in hiring, he looks beyond grades on a resume, seeking signs of previous work, and unusual efforts. "I want to hear their passion about it, what they've done in that area," he says.

(So what does that say about the hiring and departure of Bruce Bender?)

Part 7

How'd he switch careers? "I said, OK, you've contributed in government world and the public interest world, let's see what you can do in the private sector," recalls Ratner.

The move, suggests the host, was "for the best of reasons," to support his two young daughters on more than a government salary. (OK, so that justifies any future questionable business practices?)

"I really didn't expect to stay in business more that a few years, maybe make enough money so maybe I could teach some more, which I really love to do, or maybe work for government," says Ratner.

(It didn't work out that way: surely Ratner really loves to be a developer too, and maybe even "winning" at development)

Part 8

Ratner learned Brooklyn, and all the boroughs, by working for the city, traveling to the city offices, getting to know the diversity, poverty, and wealth of the city.

"Growing up, you always heard Brooklyn Dodgers, Brooklyn, Brooklyn," Ratner says. "So when I traveled to Brooklyn, I always felt kind of special."

(He felt kind of special just crossing into the borough? Not so special he moved here.)

Part 9

"It's been more than eight years since he announced his plan to build an urban utopia in the heart of Brooklyn," the host leads off. (An urban utopia? Even the gush from Times critic Herbert Muschamp has not stood the test of time.)

There were legal and financial challenges, but the arena is nearly done.

"I think the result, in terms of the borough, in terms of our company, in terms of young people, will really mean that was worth it," Ratner says. "Whether it be when Rockefeller Center was built, or Lincoln Center, any of the really great places, you're going to have differences of opinion. Yes, it was difficult, a lot of pain, it was very expensive, but it's a process we all have to go through, to get things done, or sometimes to not get things done."

(Atlantic Yards is like Rockefeller Center and Lincoln Center? The latter, however it removed many people, at least aims to serve the public. The former--well there are some parallels, not always flattering, and differences, as I've written.)

Part 10

"Bruce Ratner says he has to pinch himself when he drives by his new building," the host leads off, citing "the NBA team he bought to bring major league sports back to Brooklyn after a 54-year absence." (Um, he had to sell it. And he used sports to leverage a real estate deal.)

Ratner, apparently, is excited that the Barclays Center has a main entrance: "Part of the thing I noticed about sports was that people like to feel like they're part of a community. They like to feel like they're with people. So building an arena where you have one major entrance all coming in I thought was very important."

(Except there are other entrances, too, and they're closer to an actual neighborhood.)

Of the opening events, he says, "Those first three weeks I think are going to be remarkable in the kind of talent that we're going to have at that arena."

(Well, there's no doubt they can recruit some stars. That won't make it any easier on the unresolved issues such as traffic.)

"We're on schedule," says FCR construction executive Sanna, but he doesn't sound certain

There's an intriguing quote from Forest City Ratner construction chief Bob Sanna in a NY1 puff piece (mostly) on the Barclays Center, keyed to a visit from Nets Coach Avery Johnson.

(Surely the headline, Nets Coach Takes His First Tour of Barclays Center, is overstated. It's the first time he visited the building since the roof was enclosed.)

"We're on schedule," Sanna said, in a slightly defensive tone. "I mean, in this kind of business where you're outside all the time and materials are coming from all over the United States, any one thing can drive your schedule, but we're on schedule right now, scheduled to complete in September."

That leads to the question: if they go off schedule, what will it take--more overtime, opening the arena without the rebuilt Carlton Avenue Bridge--to get back on schedule?

Jury to begin fourth day of deliberations in Yonkers trial

After three days--not quite full days, since yesterday ended at 2:30 pm--a federal jury is still weighing corruption charges against former Yonkers City Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor, Zehy Jereis.

As noted by the Journal News, the jury yesterday "asked today for the testimony of Jereis and former co-defendant Anthony Mangone, who claimed to have passed along a $20,000 bribe to Jereis in 2006 to influence Annabi's vote on the Longfellow housing project in her district."

There was no such claimed bribe regarding Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill project, but prosecutors argued that the stream of payments from Jereis over seven years induced Annabi to vote as he wished. Defense attorneys pointed to the absence of any agreement to do so, and argued that Annabi changed her vote because of concessions.

On Monday, Hezi Aris of the Yonkers Tribune described what could be gleaned by courtroom observers:
Shouting matches that seemed to give rise from passionate retelling of events and diminution of opposite minded juror's perspectives espoused broke the decibel level often times in the late morning into the mid afternoon, subsiding after 3:00 p.m., or so. While the expressions were loud, they were not discernible. No inference could be deduced.
As I wrote, there was a Rashomon-like aspect to the case, with the Jereis's gifts to Annabi portrayed as evidence of infatuation and evidence of influence.

"Brooklynized" water gets low marks in NY Mag's Approval Matrix

New York Magazine's Approval Matrix doesn't think much of the Barclays Center's embrace of "Brooklynized" water devised in Florida:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Jersey Strong, Brooklyn Ready"? Nets' focus on Brooklyn has its drawbacks, scribe says

How well is the Nets' "Jersey Strong, Brooklyn Ready" slogan working? Not so well.

Wrote New York Daily News beat reporter Stefan Bondy 3/24/12:
With injuries and long losing streaks mounting, the Nets have looked increasingly unmotivated and resigned to losing - an offense more understandable considering their lame-duck status in New Jersey, the lack of support at the Prudential Center and the constant focus on Brooklyn.

Thirty-five years in New Jersey is coming to a fitting, anonymous end.
Bondy tweeted last night:
Theres a marketing movement and nonstop talks about Brooklyn while most of players are on expiring deals. Tough circumstances for a coach
Treating fans like celebrities

Meanwhile, Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark is focusing on Brooklyn. "I had a meeting with Jay-Z six months ago," he told Sports Business Journal, according to NetsDaily. "He said your goal is to make sure that everyone leaves feeling like they were a celebrity that night."

Presumably that includes constant arena noise and promotions.

From the latest Construction Alert: new rail track, progress on Carlton Avenue Bridge, delay in traffic mitigation work, creation of surface parking lot to start May 1 (though no plans announced)

Below are some excerpts from the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated 3/26/12 (and embedded below), and released yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by Forest City Ratner.

The highlights include:
  • installation of new rail road track in the west end of Block 1120
  • progress on the North Abutment of the Carlton Avenue Bridge
  • removal of an access ramp to the arena
  • work on the remaining traffic mitigation work will begin in late April, not merely April
  • work on the surface parking lot should begin May 1, though no plans have been announced
  • streets lights and curbs are being installed on Flatbush Avenue
Below, I've bolded the notable changes from the previous alert.

Arena Site/Deliveries & Site Access
• Hunt has demobilized the access ramp at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue. The main gate and delivery ramp is now and will remain for the future at Pacific Street and 6th Avenue. The access route to the Pacific gate remains posted at the site and is the same as it has been throughout the project. Access is also available via the Atlantic Avenue gates at the Fort Greene intersection, midway between the Ft. Greene and 6th Avenue intersection and limited access for concrete trucks on Flatbush Avenue across from 5th Avenue and at the Dean Street intersection. The removal of the Pacific Street [sic; probably Dean Street] ramp, from the bottom to the top, is projected to begin during this reporting period. The removal is anticipated to occur over several reporting periods.
Revisions to the perimeter construction fence are projected to begin this reporting period, in order to allow the site construction activity to ramp up. Adjustments will be made to the portion of the fence along Dean Street & 6th Avenue and Dean Street & Flatbush Avenue. Changes will not be made until permit approval has been secured.
Steel erection and stadia installation
Primary (truss) roof steel erection has been completed. Secondary roof framing will be completed during this reporting period. Preparation to erect the main entry canopy steel is expected to begin this reporting period. The erection of the canopy steel framing will start during this reporting period.
Façade Installation
• The installation of curtain wall and curtain wall/lattice panels will continue on the Flatbush Avenue elevation as needed, and then following the canopy steel erection. In the interest of public safety, and as approved by the New York City Building Department, pedestrians using the east side sidewalk of Flatbush Avenue next to the arena may be temporarily diverted to across the street by Hunt flagmen during high level work. The façade erector will continue with installation of panels along the 6th Avenue elevation this reporting period, and turn the corner west on to the Dean Street elevation, installing the high panels. Installation of the erection clips will continue on the Dean Street elevation during this reporting period.
• The façade subcontractor will continue to work a second shift as needed throughout this reporting period. Work may be performed on the 6th Avenue, Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street elevations on second shift.
Waterproofing & Fireproofing
• The waterproofing of the interior walls of the east stormwater retention tank has been completed. The application of interior waterproofing at the west stormwater tank has been completed.
• The exterior tank roof waterproofing for the west tank will start this reporting period.
• The maintenance of temporary weather walls (visqueen & tarps) as well as temporary rubber roofing, to provide protection through the spring months, will continue this reporting period.
Mechanical, Electrical, & Plumbing
• Permanent power from ConEd is projected to be completed on the service side this reporting period.The transformers have been placed in the ConEd vault. The first of the transformers has power to the line, or service side, and permanent power should be available to all transformers on or about March 19th to the 26th.
Interior Build-out
The installation of applied finishes will continue during this reporting period at the Event Level restrooms and showers in the Nets Campus areas, kitchens and food service areas, as well as the Main Concourse restrooms and concessions, and the Lower/Upper Suite restrooms, concessions and suites.The delivery of the primary kitchen and concessions equipment will continue during this reporting period.
New Subway Entrance--Concrete
• The sub-passageway floors have now been placed.
New Subway Entrance--Transit Canopy
• The steel and concrete roof for the canopy is now complete along with the spray fireproofing. The contour slab has been completed. Roofing work will commence during the month of April.
Tile work is underway. The steel stair nosings and stair tile work at the main entrance stair will follow the completion of the MEP work, painting and canopy ceiling installation. MEP work will progress over the next 2 months and will be followed by the canopy ceiling. Ductwork installation has commenced and electrical work will follow.
• The two new escalator trusses from the fare array area to the new plaza have been set and final assembly continues. Electrical and fire protection work at the escalator trusses is now complete. The new elevator enclosure has also been erected and elevator installation continues. Work activities have been resequenced to accommodate canopy work items. Elevator cab installation has commenced. Stainless steel work for the escalator is in progress.
Rail yard/Drainage System
• Posillico/Tully is working from west to east to install deep drainage piping in the yard. They will also continue excavation for the associated stormwater manholes. This work will be ongoing for the next month. Through this period, Retention Basins “A”, “B” and “D” have been completed and back-filled. Work has moved to the final basin, Basin “C”.
Electrical Ducts and Manholes
• Conduit formwork continues to be placed throughout the yard for underground electrical duct banks (for both train traction power and signal). Precast manholes continue to be placed at multiple locations. This work will continue through the next month.
Track Work
• Installation of rail road track has begun in the west end of BL1120, to include welding of running rails. Track work will continue, working typically from west to east, until the yard is completed.
• Stone ballast has been, and will continue to be intermittently delivered during the night shift.
[Previously: the track work was to continue "through the next 3 month period." Now it's ambiguous.]

Carlton Avenue Bridge
• Construction of Pier #2 is nearly completed. Forming and pouring of the pedestals at the top of the stem wall will take place in this reporting period. The footing for the North Abutment will be poured during this reporting period. Currently, forms and reinforcing are being placed.
East End (former Gasoline Station)
• Construction of a tall retaining wall along the Vanderbilt Ave. end of the yard is set to begin once permits have been secured. Work will require that e west southbound traffic lane and adjoining sidewalk be taken out of service when concrete trucks are present from which will be pumped concrete into the wall below. Work has begun within the yard on pouring the concrete footing for this wall.
Replacement of Adjacent Water Mains and other Utility Work
• On behalf of the DEP, FCRC is managing the installation of a new water trunk main and associated distribution mains on Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. The work is divided into three stages.
o Stage One is the work on the west side of Flatbush, north of the Atlantic intersection, continuing across Flatbush to the edge of the transit improvements on the arena block...
o Stage Two is the work along the south side of Atlantic Ave. from a location just west of the former 5th Avenue bed, running eastward to a location west of the 6th Avenue intersection.
o Stage Three is the area between Stages One and Two, across Flatbush Avenue and the top of the future new transit station improvements.
...• Stage Three, which is over a portion of the transit area, was completed in March.• Catch basins at the corner of Pacific and 6th Avenue will be modified during April. Work will begin during the next two week period pending receipt of DEP approval.
Block 1129 (Carlton, Dean, Vanderbilt, Pacific) – Construction Staging
Contractor work related to digging test pits for soil sample classification took place from March 12 through March 14th. There is no other work currently on-going or scheduled to prior the construction start date of May 1, 2012 for surface parking lot.
Traffic Mitigation Site Work Atlantic Avenue Medians
Work is expected to begin in late April 2012 on the remaining traffic mitigation work, most of which is made up of raised medians along Atlantic Avenue from Flatbush Avenue to Vanderbilt Avenue. OCMC is reviewing the scope and location of the medians and will determine whether the work shall be performed during limited daytime, which will prolong the construction period, or at night between 10 pm and 6 am. If the work is done at night, mobile light units will be used to illuminate the work area. The arena block, Carlton Avenue Bridge reconstruction and DDC utility work between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues also take lanes out of service. Therefore, the median work must be scheduled block by block to coordinate with the other work schedules and MPT configurations. Because the work is a few feet directly above the LIRR tunnel into Atlantic Terminal, the means and methods must be reviewed and approved by the LIRR.
Arena Site Work
The curb installation work and street light installation work will now commence on Flatbush Avenue during the hours of 10 PM to 6 AM. This work will continue for the month of April. Upon completion of this work, the sidewalks in front of the arena will then be installed. The work will continue in May.
Maintenance & Protection of Traffic (MPTs)
• The MPT on 6th Avenue, from Pacific Street to Dean Street and on Dean Street from 6th Avenue to Flatbush Avenue will be relocated from the property line to the curb line to facilitate the installation of the bollards during this reporting period.
NYC Transit Improvements:
Work related to the BMT structure and below grade concrete, steel and MEP work may be conducted on Saturdays, March 31st and April 7th during this reporting period.
Arena Site Work
Work along Flatbush Avenue as described above will occur during this reporting period during weeknight evening hours as described above under approved DOT stipulations.
AY Construction Alert 3-26-2012

Jonathan Rosen, public affairs consultant for Forest City (and many others), honored by Crain's

Photo from Crain's NY Business
Hey, ever noticed this gent at an Atlantic Yards meeting?

He's p.r. man Jonathan Rosen of BerlinRosen, one of Crain's New York Business's "40 Under 40" honorees.

He started in politics, working for state Senator (now Attorney General) Eric Schneiderman, then joined Valerie Berlin, Schneiderman's chief of staff, on Mark Green's mayoral campaign.

After some more campaigns, the duo in 2005 founded BerlinRosen. Crain's reports:
In just six-plus years, their communications consultancy has grown into a team of 20 strategists that is in the middle of campaigns shaping public policy in the city, the state and, increasingly, the country. Its revenues have increased every quarter as the firm has expanded well beyond its roots on the left.

Mr. Rosen is a top strategist for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and real estate titan Bruce Ratner. Recent clients include the nationwide group Rock the Vote and a coalition of Brookfield Properties and tenants looking to buy Stuyvesant Town. Perhaps his most impressive victory came last year in helping Cornell University win the mayor’s tech-campus competition.
Potential synergy

With Silver, Schneiderman, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio on board with BerlinRosen, among others, Forest City has to like the synergy. The firm also represented ACORN.

The firm's motto:
Our clients come to us with their toughest public policy and political challenges—when their highest priorities, reputations, businesses or careers are on the line.

When the chips are down, we help them win.
Public Affairs/Advocacy clients

Political clients

Al Pirro: Forest City Ratner (ex-)lobbyist, lawyer, and dinner guest from Mob Wives (according to the Post, though he denies it)

Al Pirro--lawyer, lobbyist, and estranged husband of former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro--was a small but not unimportant character in the federal corruption trial involving former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and her mentor, political fixer Zehy Jereis.

(The jury's still deliberating, by the way, after two full days.)

Pirro served as a lobbyist for developer Forest City Ratner, which desperately needed Annabi's vote to get its Ridge Hill retail/residential project passed.

While Pirro was mentioned in testimony by several witnesses, he was never called to testify himself--perhaps because prosecutors recognized that, with his felony record of tax fraud (and rumors of mob ties), Pirro might be red meat to defense attorneys.

A boozed-up dinner

Now, according to the New York Post, there's another reason to be wary of Pirro: he can be a nasty, threatening drunk.

The paper's exclusive, based on anonymous sources, describes what a witness likened to a scene from Mob Wives: Pirro and nine friends hit Massa, a farmhouse style restaurant and wine bar in Scarsdale, at 9 p.m. Saturday, already sloshed.

They then imbibed three bottles and five glasses of wine, and a dozen mixed drinks. But when a Pirro pal lost his cellphone and accused a waiter of theft, the shouting began.

At one point, restaurant personnel thought they had things under control, even getting the party outside, it wasn't over, according to the newspaper:
But then one of the liquored-up ladies started screaming, “You motherf--ker! You son of a bitch!” causing tempers to flare anew, and Pirro barreled back inside for Round 2, the sources said.
“Pirro came in like a maniac, charging, yelling, ‘I’ll f--king kill you, you don’t know who the f--k you’re dealing with!’ ” and punched a waiter in the chest, they said.
Pirro's denial

Pirro and his lawyer didn't respond to the Post's queries. But he did tell the Journal News the paper got it wrong:
Pirro confirmed that his dinner friend, a man identified only by his first name, Robert, got into a “ridiculous” argument with restaurant staff over the “stupid telephone.” He told me that a lot of wine and other alcohol was consumed, but he only drank iced tea.

Indeed, he insisted he did nothing wrong and was only trying to break up the fracas.

“I was not hit, I was not punched, I did not throw a punch,” he said. “I was not cursing or swearing. The only thing I insisted on was to tell everybody, ‘Get out and go home.’ And that was it. I didn’t think anything further of it.”

...He said his story could be confirmed by Francesco Coli, the owner of Massa. Coli did not return my call Monday, but evidently told other news outlets that Al was innocent of any misbehavior.