Monday, April 30, 2012

How many full-time jobs at the Barclays Center? Not 150-200, as announced four days ago, but just 105, as explained in Community Board presentation

At the April 26 press conference on a promised 2000 jobs at the Barclays Center, officials said that 150-200 of the jobs would be full-time.

In fact, the New York Daily News reported that "some 90%" would be part-time, indicating approximately 200 full-time jobs, and the New York Post reported 200 full-time jobs.

Actually, according to a presentation prepared by Forest City Ratner and delivered tonight to a committee of Community Board 6, the company estimates only 105 full-time jobs, plus 1901 part-time jobs.

Even if the numbers are approximate, that's a dramatic difference.

Some of the CB members were cordially inquisitive during the lightly attended meeting, given the board's experience with promises from Ikea. But nobody brought up the discrepancy between the numbers in the presentation and the numbers mentioned last week.

Update

Bruce Ratner said at the press conference: "About 90 percent, up to 1800, 1900 are part-time" jobs, with schedules "up to 30 hours a week," and "the remainder, 150 to 200, are full-time." He didn't say 105.

Beginning of a process

The main goal of the meeting, with a presentation led by FCR's approachable Ashley Cotton, was to explain how the job recruitment process will work, involving outreach, job fairs, and interviews. Similar meetings will be held this week at other community boards in the area around the arena, as the hiring will focus in the areas of CBs 2, 3, 6, and 8.

The meeting tonight was held at the Prospect Park Residence. On Tuesday, a similar presentation will be made before a Community Board 2 committee, at Long Island University, Library Learning Center Room 515, DeKalb and Hudson Avenues, at 6 pm.

Cotton, a former Bloomberg administration aide, is the successor to Bruce Bender, the wily political operative who helped steer the project over several shoals but ran into rough waters. He was wiretapped during a profane attempt to get state Sen. Carl Kruger, since convicted of taking bribes, to direct money to Atlantic Yards, and left the company shortly before he testified in a federal corruption trial regarding the developer's unseemly, though not illegal, decision to hire Yonkers fixer Zehy Jereis for a no-show job after he helped get Council Member Sandy Annabi to change her vote.

Drilling down

Forest City Ratner Companies and its Brooklyn Events Center subsidiary would have a tiny fraction of the jobs. Some 1000 part-timers would be hired by AEG, in charge of arena operations, and 900 hired by Levy Restaurants, in charge of food service.

None of the part-time positions would come with vacation benefits or health benefits, though they could come with other benefits to be negotiated after a union is formed.

Based on comments at the press confrerence last week, the salaries are expected to be above living wage--$11.50 without benefits--though, as noted by Patch, this project would not be included in any living wage legislation.

However, officials from Forest City, Levy, and AEG were not ready to make any estimates beyond "above minimum wage" and "competitive" to venues like Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium, saying it would be subject to collective bargaining, since employees are expected to be unionized.

P/T = 24 hours per week?

The maximum number of workers at any one time is likely to be about 800, while smaller events could have only 500 workers.

If the total number of jobs is equivalent to 1,240 full-time equivalent jobs, as stated last week, then that means a total of 49,600 hours a week and 2,579,200 hours for the year.

Let's subtract the full-time jobs: 105 x 40 x 52, or 210,000 annually. That leaves 2,360,800 hours to be divided among the 1901 part-time employees over 52 weeks. That suggests a total of 45,400 hours per week, or 23.9 hours per person.

Forest City will report quarterly, on its website, on its hiring, in terms of local hiring and hiring from housing projects. However, the developer has never hired the Independent Compliance Monitor promised as part of the Community Benefits Agreement.

Leading off



After the introductions of the various staffers present, Cotton talked about the MWBE (minority and women's business enterprises) contract, with 16.3% MBE and 6.3% WBE. That was not segmented into New York City or Brooklyn firms.



In the week ending April 15, of the total construction workforce of 836, 442 were New York City residents, of which 186 were Brooklyn residents.

How does that break down into FTE (full-time equivalent)? Cotton didn't have details. As I wrote in January, the total number of FTE jobs is probably some 25% lower.



The hiring process will go through the Small Business Services' Workforce1 hiring program, as well through the New York City Housing Authority, and with the participation of Community Benefits Agreement partner Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD).

There's a five-stage process:
  • jobs will be posted online at BarclaysCenter.com (though the bulk of the jobs aren't posted yet)
  • jobs fairs will be open to the public
  • written applications
  • interviews
  • employment offers continent on background check and drug test.
CB6 member Richard Bashner, citing the Ikea example, asked if job fairs could be moved up before jobs are posted. Cotton responded that all the workforce preparation, via SBS, makes sure people come job-ready.

Board member Pauline Blake asked about outreach plans. That, responded Cotton, was what they were beginning today. Job fairs will be held mostly in July, and candidates should expect to stay for a while, and should come in job-appropriate apparel.

More questions

Would people with criminal records be hired?

"We weigh each case separately," said AEG's David Anderson, who noted that the firm does background checks.

Will alcoholic beverages be served with "free pours" or "measured pours," asked board member Lou Sones, who runs The Brazen Head.

"Always a metered pour," responded Julie Margolin of Levy Restaurants. "[Free pouring] is a terminable offense."

Will the job recruiters reach out to housing projects like the Red Hook Houses, which was not among the specific mentioned New York City Housing Authority developments, including the Gowanus Houses and the Ingersoll and Whitman Houses?

"The list was determined through the CBA [Community Benefits Agreement]," responded Cotton, who noted that there's a preference for not just residents of the local Community Boards but for public housing residents as well as Brooklynites.

Followed up Bashner, "The Community Board wasn't a party to the CBA.  We're looking at it independently." He encouraged Forest City to extend outreach to the Red Hook Houses, which are part of CB6.

Cotton said she'd take back the questions and suggestions from the meeting and build on them as the process continues.

Update: the PowerPoint document

Barclays Center Hiring Plan 5-10-12

At the "the brand identity launch of the Brooklyn Nets": new merchandise, global reach, "Community Week," and the continued invocation of Jay-Z

It was about Brooklyn, but it was, of course, about business: logos, t-shirts, hats, and other Brooklyn Nets merchandise at the Modell's across from the in-construction Barclays Center arena.

In a press conference/pep rally this morning, before the press and Nets-related staffers, MC David Diamante introduced what he called "the brand identity launch of the Brooklyn Nets."

The black-and-white logos had already emerged, though other "secondary marks" were new, such as the "Brownstone Ballers, "Brooklyn's Finest," and "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" shirts.

And yes, while the Nets also introduced some warm-n-fuzzy Community Week events, more important was the worldwide publicity, accentuated by NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver.

He declared, "We're very excited to take Brooklyn and bring it to 215 countries around the world. We couldn't be more excited about the Jay-Z-inspired and -designed black-and-white logo, which we think is going to be a huge hit in markets all around the world.

The caps, as indicated in the photo at left, cost $26--surely not an atypical price for NBA merchandise, but a sign of how the cachet of Brooklyn can add up to big bucks.

"The Brooklyn Nets are finally part of the conversation," declared Nets/Barclays CEO Brett Yormark, and he was surely right.

Designed by Jay-Z?

Nets brass continued to maintain that the logos were designed by Jay-Z, though actual design work seems beyond his tastemaking skill set and NetsDaily's Net Income/Bob Windrem suggests another designer did the nitty-gritty work.

 (David Roth, writing in Capital New York, calls Jay-Z the team's "resident Brooklyn-credibility totem."

An unscientifc poll on TMZ (right) gave thumbs down to the logo, as did New York's Seth Rosenthal, though there certainly was a lot of #HelloBrooklyn enthusiasm on Twitter and the one branding expert quoted by the Times offered praise.

A poll of sports fans on SB Nation, below left, was also positive.


Beyond the merch: tickets

Substantial if not overwhelming crowds--well over 100 people--lined up for Nets' merchandise outside Modell's (below right photo) and on the Atlantic Terminal plaza (bottom video) to buy season tickets--before either of the lines actually moved. (The line at Modell's was goosed by the promise of ticket vouchers for the first 100 people to the opening game next season, as noted in the Daily News.)

A larger group lined up to shoot free throws and get a chance at a Community Week t-shirt (below left).

The numbers were likely diminished because it was a work day. The Nets put 1000 season tickets, at all price points, up for sale to Brooklynites.

"Screecher seats"?

How many of the $15 seats, of which there should be 2,000, were for sale? Nets spokesman Barry Baum said people could buy at whatever price point they chose.

Would the much-promised $15 screecher seats be available as single-game tickets or solely as season tickets? Baum said, "At this point, we haven't determined [it]."

The Nets Experience van (below left) was also at Atlantic Terminal.

The unresolved Nets

While the Nets brought center Brook Lopez to model a new hat, the future of the team is uncertain.

"The Nets will not bring much to Brooklyn, besides novelty and hope," wrote Roth in Capital New York.

Still, Borough President Marty Markowitz addressed General Manager Billy King with a sense of ownership: "Billy, we gotta come in with fire."

And King later responded, "We're not going to try to build slowly.... So next year at this time, we'll be playing on TV and the Barclays Center will be rocking."

Ratner revises history?

Just as Jay-Z is described as a "cultural icon," Bruce Ratner gets introduced as as "a man who has led the renaissance of Brooklyn."

Ratner said, "I looked at my calendar, and it's been one decade--ten years--since I started discussing it with Marty Markowitz. It's taken ten years 'til officially they are the Brooklyn Nets!"

If it has been ten years, since May 2002, then that further revises the creation tale told by Markowitz in a New Yorker profile, that he picked up the phone in the fall of 2002 to tell Ratner the Nets were up for sale.

After all, as I reported in April 2007, Forest City Ratner reserved the URL bball.net--for the inchoate Atlantic Yards or even an arena in Coney Island--on 3/27/02.

Hockey in Brooklyn?

After the event, there was an opportunity for one-on-one interviews. No one, I'd bet, asked about the developer's promises of jobs and housing.

An AP reporter, apparently looking for an angle, quoted Bruce Ratner as saying the arena "was made for hockey and basketball... It could easily support a hockey team."

Well, while it probably could support a hockey team, it was most certainly not "made for hockey and basketball." After all, Ratner's construction chief, Bob Sanna, said last year, "we made some pretty deliberate decisions early on: we weren't going to have a [major league] hockey team."

Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark & Brook Lopez

The event began with Diamante. "It's especially exciting for me as a fifth-generation Brooklynite," declared the announcer, who actually was raised outside Washington, DC. "It's going to be the best sports and entertainment venue in the world."

Yormark took the mic and first thanked "our marketing team." He said he'd received emails from Italy, China, France, Spain, and Russia, asking where they could get their Brooklyn Nets merchandise. < "But most importantly, I also received an email from a young Brooklyn mother," Yormark continued. "And she said, My son is two. Today, he will officially become a Brooklyn Nets fan. Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Nets are finally part of the conversation, and I'm so thrilled to be here."

"We are thrilled to unveil the brand identity of the Brooklyn Nets, and to launch the next chapter in our team's history," he continued. "The brand identity has been created by Jay-Z. Who better than the number one tastemaker in the world to design our color palette and logos? And who knows better about Brooklyn than Jay-Z?"


"With the black-and-white colors and the design of the logos, Jay-Z has truly captured the coolness and self-confidence of the borough," Yormark said. "It truly is Brooklyn."

"The colors and logos speak to Brooklyn's strong history and heritage," he said. "They differentiate us. Just like Brooklyn is different from anywhere in the world, we will be the only NBA team with only black-and-white as colors."

"It's a bold new direction for the Nets team," he said, suggesting the the look evoked the subway system of the city during the last time Brooklyn had a home team.
"We will be Brooklyn's home team," he said, then gave 7' Nets center Brook Lopez a Brooklyn Nets hat.

Lopez, at the end of the video, stayed mostly on message, praising Jay-Z for creating the logo and citing the return of a sports team after more than 50 years.  "We have been working hard to be the team that they really deserve," he said of Brooklynites.

Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner

A beaming Ratner said, "I looked at my calendar, and it's been one decade--ten years--since I started discussing it with Marty Markowitz. It's taken ten years 'til officially they are the Brooklyn Nets!"




"Ladies and gentlemen, the curse of O'Malley is officially over today!" he continued, offering many thanks. "The most important thing, I would do it again," he added, saluting "the great borough, city, and country of Brooklyn, USA."

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz

Introducing Markowitz, Diamante said "it was his idea for Mr. Ratner to buy the Nets and move them to Brooklyn." Markowitz addressed GM Billy King with familiarity and no small amount of ownership: "Billy, we gotta come in with fire.... and show not only Brooklynites, but the country, and the world--that it all starts right here, in Brooklyn."

"The ghosts of Ebbets Field, I can see them departing, bye-bye" Markowitz declared. "Bruce Ratner, I must tell you, it was ten years ago when I started my phone calls, bugging this man, a team, what are you tawking about?"

"He didn't know which team," Ratner interjected jocularly, which suggests that Markowitz may have started before the Nets were for sale.



"He had the vision... I just wanted an arena, and a team. Of course, that's why he's so successful, because he stuck with it," Markowitz said, not mentioning that, as of now, an arena and a team--not "jobs and housing"--are what have been delivered.

"Now, we begin very very shortly," Markowitz said. "It's a game changer for our borough.

"I know what our Brooklyn Dodgers meant to the fabric of Brooklyn," Markowitz said, then, wisely didn't try to draw a parallel. "That was then, this is now. It's a new era, a new time. But how lucky the kids are, and their families, that they'll have a chance to cheer for the Brooklyn Nets, and all the other great things that'll be going on."

"To me, whatever the design is, as long as it says Brooklyn, I'm thrilled," said Markowitz, offering Ratner a declaration and a proclamation.

Onexim's Irina Pavlova

[Only partial remarks recorded]

Principal Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov wasn't there, but his deputy Irina Pavlova was, and she pledged, "We will strive to be the best, and we won't stop til we get there. After all this is what Brooklyn is all about, this is what fans expect of us, and we plan to deliver."



"We're very excited to become an integral part of the Brooklyn community," Pavlova said, saying they would show a commitment "to improving people's lives."

Yormark announces Community Week

Yormark announced the launch of Brooklyn Nets Community Week. "We're looking forward to serving an active role in our new borough, and meeting our new neighbors," he said.

The events this week include:
  • Tuesday, May 1 - EDUCATION;  Nets employees will read to kids at 22 neighborhood libraries throughout Brooklyn. 
  • Wednesday, May 2 – ATHLETICS;  Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark and 500 kids (ages 12-14) from local YMCA's will compete in sports clinics at the Park Slope Armory YMCA
  • Thursday, May 3 – HEALTH AND WELLNESS;  LIU Brooklyn students, faculty, and staff, Crunch Fitness instructors, and health care providers from Maimonides Medical Center and MJHS will hold  health screenings and classes at Long Island University Brooklyn
  • Friday May 4 – COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT; 50 local volunteers will participate in landscaping and painting projects in Prospect Park.


The week is sponsored by Brooklyn Water Bagel, Crunch Fitness, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Maimonides Medical Center, and MJHS (a charitable not-for-profit health system). The medical center is the team's official hospital. Several executives, led by President Pam Brier, then took the dais.

Below is the hospital's official promo video:



NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver

"Brooklyn is of course a global city," Silver said, "and in many ways parallels the NBA."

"Our games are seen in over 215 countries, and televised in 47 languages, plus Brooklynese, so there's a perfect fit between Brooklyn and the NBA," he said.



"We're very excited to take Brooklyn and bring it to 215 countries around the world," Silver declared. "We couldn't be more excited about the Jay-Z-inspired and -designed black-and-white logo, which we think is going to be a huge hit in markets all around the world. And Brooklyn, welcome to the NBA."

I suspect the logo is more "vetted" by Jay-Z than "designed" by him.

Nets Coach Avery Johnson

Johnson, who's from New Orleans, doesn't sound like a local. It may not matter if, as he predicted optimistically, "when we sell out every night at the Barclays Center, and everybody's saying Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn."



Nets GM Billy King

"Were going to put together a team that Brooklyn can be proud of," said King. "This has been talked about amongst players, GMs, and owners throughout the league. Brooklyn has something that people want to talk about. The Barclays Center is something they have been talking about. It makes my job a lot easier now."

"I think you'll see this worn everywhere," he said of the logo.



"We'll put a team on the court that's going to play hard," King predicted. "We're not going to try to build slowly.... So next year at this time, we'll be playing on TV and the Barclays Center is rocking."

Mitchell Modell of Modell's

Mitchell Modell, introduced as the most successful sports apparel retailer in the area, thanked the store's "associates" who worked through the night to set up the merchandise. He praised Ratner for his "relentlessness and "passion."



Waiting for tickets

The lines of people waiting for season tickets in the plaza outside Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall.




Experience Van outside Atlantic Terminal
Playing hip-hop for people waiting to try their luck in a free-throw contest.

PHNDC asks Cuomo, Bloomberg to stop construction of arena parking lot before public input, notes plans have been delayed for nearly six months

In a last-minute effort, the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) sent a letter today to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Mike Bloomberg asking them to suspend construction tomorrow of a planned arena patron surface parking lot on the southeast block of the project, bounded by Vanderbilt Avenue, Carlton Avenue, Dean Street and Pacific Street.

The organization includes several block and neighborhood organizations in Prospect Heights.

The issues include City Planning standards; storm water drainage; curb cuts; and the role of stackers or multi-story parking--and the continued delays regarding plans for the lot.

Continued delays

The letter notes that plans have delayed repeatedly:
Representatives of the Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC] and Forest City Ratner Companies originally stated that plans for the lot would be provided in December 2011 and that there would be a period of community review and comment. We have recently been notified construction of the surface parking lot will begin May 1 and that plans will be made public May 22. In the meantime, the parking lot will have been under construction for three weeks.
Residences surround the parking lot, and because it is separated from Barclays Center by two avenues, arena patrons and arena related vehicles will be channeled past bedrooms and playground using neighborhood streets and sidewalks.
Court ruling: no impact?

The potential persistence of parking is one reason why ESDC and Forest City lost a lawsuit filed by PHNDC and other community groups, but that hasn't changed things on the ground. The letter notes:
The NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division referenced the above ground parking in its unanimous reaffirmation this month of a lower court ruling that the ESDC failed to consider the impact of this parking lot on our community when it approved changes to the Atlantic yards project plan in 2009. ESDC has yet to comply with a court order for a supplemental environmental impact statement to be prepared. It now appears the State of New York and the City of New York may allow the developer to build the arena parking lot without any opportunity for input from the community or its elected representatives.
PHNDC letter to Cuomo/Bloomberg re Atlantic Yards Parking Lot

Hello Brooklyn! Branding proceeds! Brooklyn Nets ballcaps cost $26

I'll have a lot more from the Brooklyn Nets' branding event later, but first, a fundamental fact: ballcaps at Modell's cost $26.




Reporter tests route from Jersey to Brooklyn; results may vary after arena opens

The (Bergen) Record's John Brennan decided to test the route from longtime New Jersey Nets territory to the team's new home in Brooklyn.

Turns out that, after leaving at 5:10 pm from Paramus, he and a photographer managed to make it to Brooklyn, park, and be outside the arena at 6:30 pm—"a full hour before our imaginary tipoff and, frankly, a lot sooner than we expected."

He recognized, however, several caveats:
  • traffic will be a lot worse on a real game night
  • parking costs will rise
  • the "4,400 spaces" that the Nets say are within an “8 to 10 block radius” of the arena may be filled by others.
I'd add that the team has not exactly identified those spaces, as the long-promised Transportation Demand Management plan has been delayed yet again, until May 22.

Brennan noted that public transportation would take less than 90 minutes each way. Right now, that looks more costly--$12.50 each, plus $7 for parking--but I suspect it would be cheaper after parking prices in Brooklyn rise.

Yormark: Jay-Z is "creator" of new logo; promotional video claims "neighborhood is family and loyalty never goes away"

Jay-Z, apparently is the "author" and "creator" of the new Nets' logos, Brett Yormark, CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center, told CNBC's Darren Rovell in a live interview.

I wouldn't bet that the hip-hop star/entrepreneur/producer/"cultural icon" really drew it up, rather than helped choose from competing suggestions. Yormark called the black-and-white motif a major change from the red, white, and blue of the previous logo, and noted it was the only black-and-white one in the league.

One logo is a shield containing a basketball and the letter "B." The other is a circle with a "B" on a basketball, ringed by "Brooklyn" and "New York." (Yes, they're selling a lot of gear, as shown in the picture below right, from the Brooklyn Nets Twitter account.)

Yormark, asked by Rovell about principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov's promise of a championship in five years, pivoted and said suites had sold at 75% (really?) and sponsorships were going great.

He didn't specify, but, in late March, Forest City Enterprises reported that "64 percent of forecasted contractually obligated revenues for the [Barclays Center] arena are currently under contract."

New advertising: "Hello Brooklyn"

A new 30-second commercial, below, uses the work "Hello" to preface the following terms:
  • History
  • Tradition
  • Icons
  • Strength
  • Confidence
  • Black & White
  • New Home
  • Electricity
  • Future
Then "Hello Brooklyn" and "Brooklyn Now has a new home team. Season tickets on sale now." They gotta sell something.



New advertising: "Brooklyn Stand Up"

A second promo video, lasting 1:48, addresses Brooklyn as "you," as in "You're a vision," linking past and present. "Your streets pulse to your own beat," it states, with a shot of a row-house block quite different from the Atlantic Yards plan.

The narrator states: "And now, Brooklyn, we root for the same cause, because we believe in the same things that you do, that neighborhood is family and loyalty never goes away." Tell that to residents of Prospect Heights and nearby either displaced by the Atlantic Yards project or bearing the brunt of its impact.

The video ends with the word "Hello" in several different languages.



From the Nets

In-house Nets scribe Ben Couch wrote, in his View from Couch: Brooklyn, Wait No More:
Here it is.

The logo. The black. The white.

The Brooklyn Nets have arrived. As a born-and-raised Brooklyn resident, whose parents still live here and work minutes away from the Barclays Center, it's a day I've been waiting for since the proposal was first floated in 2003. And it's a day that brings a new look to professional sports, a timeless one grounded in city history: the signage of New York's unparalleled subway system.

The new primary logo – created by Brooklyn's own JAY Z – retains the shield from its previous iteration, and adds that iconic Brooklyn 'B' to the basketball that has been part of every logo since the franchise's 1967 inception as the Americans. The Dodgers had their lettermark, and the Nets have added another model for the borough to bear. "Brooklyn," of course, is spelled out below. Nets CEO Brett Yormark called this "the new badge for Brooklyn," and JAY Z believes the design's boldness demonstrates confidence in the new direction.

The secondary logo, of the 'B' inside a basketball, surrounded by the words "Brooklyn New York" immediately popped an image into my head: "Planet Brooklyn." It's hard to explain the pride native Brooklynites feel for their home ("BK," "Bucktown," the "Brooklyn Zoo"), how outsiders don't get it and never really will; one measure might be trying to think if you've ever met someone from Brooklyn who said they were from "New York." Another could be the lines I once wrote in a spoken word poem:

I like to sport attitudes like
I'm better than you
because I'm from Brooklyn
… and that's just how we do.


Perhaps then, it seems odd that pride has found a partner in loss, the focus often narrowed upon 1957, when the beloved Dodgers left for "La-La Land" – as Borough President Marty Markowitz described Los Angeles Thursday. But "Dem Bums" wove themselves into the community in ways that perhaps are no longer feasible.

My elementary school in Midwood, P.S. 193, was named "The Gil Hodges School," after the first baseman for the "Boys of Summer" teams of the late '40s and '50s; he once lived across the street with his wife Joan, who remained long after Hodges passed in 1972. Hodges remains the player to receive the most votes for admittance to the Baseball Hall of Fame without ever crossing the threshold, fitting for a standout on teams that lost four World Series between 1947 and '54 – also finishing second in the National League three times and third once – before breaking through for the borough's only championship in 1955. "Wait 'til next year!" became a rally cry that resonates even still.

Brooklyn, you have only to wait for the fall.
Emphasis added; Couch is smart enough to know how 1957 cannot be 2012.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mike Bloomberg: It's "education inequality," not "income inequality" (Really?)

Mike Bloomberg is a brilliantly successful businessman, who tends not to dither making decisions. As mayor, such certainties have served him both well and poorly.

Indeed, he is a man so suffused with confidence that he could say, as he did April 26 at the Barclays Center press conference, that the arena was built for hockey, even though exactly the opposite is true. Or, choosing not to know--or find out--how many full-time equivalent jobs would be provided by the 2000 arena jobs promised, he got testy, rather than answer a reasonable question.

Bloomberg on inequality

And Bloomberg could offer a theory about inequality in this country, one that certainly would become controversial should he follow the entreaties of columnist Thomas Friedman and reconsider running for president as an independent.

"Will the people without a great skill-set have jobs that are high-paying?" Bloomberg soliloquized at the press conference, responding to questions about low-wage jobs. "Probably not. In this country, we talk about an income inequality. It is not an income inequality. It is an education inequality. And the example you should look at is: why does it take a two-breadwinner family today to be middle class, where 40-50 years ago, it was a one-breadwinner family that could do exactly that."



"And the reason is all in education," Bloomberg continued. "If you look, other countries are starting to have great schools, great universities, great public schools. And they are becoming much more productive at a much greater rate than we are doing in America. We stopped improving our productivity 20-30 years ago, and the education system started going downhill, and certainly not growing and improving as fast as the rest of the world. And that's really what you see out there, and it's a great challenge, and the answer is to go back to the basics, education, and in the meantime getting people the experience they need, and working."

Hold on. Doesn't the United States have the best universities in the world? Isn't the issue a little more complicated? Hasn't productivity been doing pretty well? Maybe the issue, as economist Dean Baker points out, is the distribution of the gains from productivity growth.

Another take

Let's look at a 7/19/10 Baker  analysis in The Nation (as well as other commentary by Baker):
This brings us to the question of why we got the housing bubble in the first place, which goes directly to the issue of inequality. In the three decades after World War II, there were no notable bubbles in the economy. Productivity growth translated into wage growth, which in turn led to more consumption. The increased demand led to more investment, productivity growth and wage growth.
This virtuous circle was broken by Reagan-era policies intended to weaken the power of ordinary workers. Wages no longer kept pace with productivity growth, eliminating the automatic link between productivity growth and demand growth. This led to excess capacity in the economy, which was filled in the 1990s with demand generated by the stock bubble and in the 2000s with demand generated by the housing bubble.
If the institutional changes of the Reagan era had not weakened workers' bargaining power, these bubbles would not have been possible. Demand would have kept pace with output capacity. The Fed would not have felt the need to lower interest rates to sustain demand. 
Because the increase in inequality was policy-related, Baker suggests some reforms:
  • "Restoring some discipline to CEO pay"
  • "A small tax on financial speculation"
  • Use trade and immigration policy to subject "highly paid professionals (doctors, lawyers, dentists, etc.)," rather than lower-level workers, to competition
  • Strengthen unions
The solution seems to be a little more complex than that proposed so assuredly by Bloomberg.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Brand identity: filling the empty vessel of the Brooklyn Nets "sports entertainment corporation" with new logo and colors

The Brooklyn Nets are set to unveil their new logo and colors at 10 am Monday, according to the Star-Ledger.

The location?

Ironically enough, the Modell's Sporting Goods store opposite the Barclays Center arena and Atlantic Terminal mall, on a plot of land known as Site 5 that is destined to be part of the Atlantic Yards project, housing a 25-story building that would displace Modell's and its neighbor, P.C. Richard.

That logo would fill the shield outlined in the #HelloBrooklyn campaign that began earlier in the week.

Image: SportsLogos.net
And as Deadspin and later Gothamist reported, the logo has leaked, emphasizing the name "Nets" with a "B" superimposed over a basketball.

It's a big deal in this Sports world, this big reveal, and big deal in Brooklyn. People are buying #HelloBrooklyn merch, and surely Nets caps and t-shirts will begin selling, to Brooklynites and wannabes, especially when pushed by trend-setters like Jay-Z. (What, principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov won't be modeling the merch?)

One snarky comment, on the Daily Beast:
Looks like some lazy designer said "Y'know who had a great logo? The Brooklyn Dodgers. Y'know who had a great color scheme? The Raiders."
By contrast, BigLeadSports, which supplied the photos below, called it "gorgeous."

Blind brand loyalty?

But what does it mean to support a hometown team when you don't even know what the team will be? Are people just "rooting for the clothes," as Jerry Seinfeld said?

From BigLeadSports
The biggest Nets star, Deron Williams, is a free agent, and while he has incentives to stay with the team (more money) and recently expressed enthusiasm about the arena, the Dallas Mavericks, his hometown team, are expected to make a big play for him.

Does the fact of a team, no matter who's on it, mean that people will represent? Does the makeup of the team make a difference? Do Brooklynites need a mark of identity so badly they will embrace an empty vessel?

Enough will embrace it, I suspect, at least initially. No matter how well the Nets play, I imagine, the publicity and novelty of the first year will bring enough of a casual fan base--notwithstanding a certain quotient of those alienated. And, if and when the team wins, it'll be easier to join the bandwagon.

"Sports entertainment corporation"

But a basketball team might be better described, in the resonant phrase of Good Jobs New York's Bettina Damian aptly told Congress, "sports entertainment corporations." As Dave D'Alessandro of the Star-Ledger wrote last week:
The largest change in our sporting lifetimes is that we regard these less as “teams” than a compulsive money grab conducted by men with MBAs — and now it goes 24/365. The NBA types have slipped in the fight for our attention and disposable income, and adjusted by becoming consumer predators — using public funds to build their stadiums, selling absurdly inflated expectations, marketing mediocre players as people who are essential to our lives, and mastering the art of “product differentiation,” which is the practice of selling different seats to different levels of suckers.
The notion that team ownership is a “public trust” is a laughable anachronism. Maybe it felt that way once. But not since they priced the middle class almost virtually out of the picture.
For the first time, the Nets are attempting to join that rat race in earnest. We wish them bon voyage and Godspeed and all that rot. They should do well.
Regarding Bruce Ratner's purchase of the Nets, D'Alessandro references former point guard Jason Kidd: “It’s not about basketball around here anymore.”

Dodgers redux?

But the endless equations with the Brooklyn Dodgers--as in the photo I below--deserve many asterisks, as Scott Turner of Fans for Fair Play reminded us in November 2005. Back then, it was far more likely for players to stick with a team for years.
Flatbush Avenue, south side, west of Seventh Avenue. Photo by Norman Oder
Remember, State Senator Marty Golden declared, according to a 4/14/06 Courier-Life article, “It is the chance of a lifetime to have stars such as Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and all the others have their home court based in Brooklyn.”

That chance has long passed. There are new players today, and surely more new ones tomorrow.

North Flatbush BID: No Hooters on Flatbush Avenue

A tweet from the North Flatbush Business Improvement District:
Hooters is still trying, I suspect, but the major landowners on North Flatbush, notably the Pintchik family of Pintchik Hardware, are not buying it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ratner, Bloomberg provoke little skepticism about "2,000 jobs" announcement; recruitment efforts begin next week; Ratner admits more potential delay on first building

The press conference yesterday regarding jobs (press release) at the Barclays Center was mostly a success for Mayor Mike Bloomberg and developer Bruce Ratner, whom the mayor referred to as "a neighbor of mine, a friend of mine."

First, many media outlets provided the understandably dramatic visuals of the structure, as shown in the first video below that I shot, and Bloomberg's endorsement of the tight seating bowl.

And most media outlets reported, with relatively little skepticism, the claim that there would be 2,000 jobs at the arena, with recruitment focused on the neighborhoods and housing projects near the site.

Also note that Ratner nudged back the goalposts for the first residential building yet again, suggesting it could start either later next year or early next year. And I already reported on Bloomberg's dismissive response to a question about whether arena-going crowds would inundate neighborhood streets and sidewalks.



Reasons for skepticism about jobs

But there were reasons for skepticism about the jobs. I reported yesterday in Daily Intel that, when asked how many full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs there would be, Bloomberg responded testily, and Ratner dodged the question with a joke aimed at me (video here).

Only later did Forest City confirm that there would be 1,240 FTE jobs, though without any documentation. And, despite Ratner's claim that compensation would "be above living wage, I'm sure," it's unlikely doubt that such part-time jobs will qualify as living-wage jobs.

Let's say 1850 people have part-time jobs and 150 have full-time jobs. That means 1850 part-timers would be vying for 1090 FTE [1240-150] positions. That works out to 23.6 hours a week [(1090 x 40)/1850 = 23.57]. (Ratner said the jobs would be "up to 30 hours" a week.)

Existing legislation defines a living wage in New York City as a minimum of $10 per hour with benefits, or $11.50 per hour without benefits.

But if they're only working 23-25 hours a week, how can that be a living wage? Moreover, no one said anything about benefits. Presumably, when Forest City Ratner reps begin making presentations next week at area community boards (Monday at CB6, Tuesday at CB2, etc.), more details will emerge.

Right now only the higher-wage jobs are listed on the Barclays Center site.

Press coverage

The New York Times, which had two reporters there, didn't cover the press conference (yet). The Daily News reported there would be "2,000 jobs... some 90% of them part-time," but didn't clarify--despite the reporter's tweet--that it would mean 1,240 FTE.

The New York Post focused on remarks Borough President Marty Markowitz made in response to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but did mention the 1,240 number.

(The Post in January, presumably citing information provided by Forest City Ratner, predicted 1500 full and part-time workers. When asked about those numbers yesterday, Ratner said, "I don't where you got the 1500... at any one time, we'll have at most 800 people in the arena.... on a major event.")

Metro didn't specify the number of jobs but did--unlike nearly every other press outlet--quote a statement issued later by Council Member Letitia James, which strikes me as on target, that most of the jobs "will do little to address the rising poverty in the borough."

Patch quoted the 2,000 figure as well as my pre-meeting reference to the state's projection of 1,120 FTE jobs. NY1 cited 2,000 jobs and some debate over the living wage, but didn't drill down. ABC was enthusiastic, with no skepticism. Ditto for Newsday.

The Observer focused on naming the Nets. amNY quoted skepticism from Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn but not the 1,240 figure. The Village Voice cited the interaction I had with Bloomberg.

 Gothamist didn't quote the FTE numbers but stressed:
Forest City Ratner is promising to "report quarterly on the number of employees and the neighborhoods that they are from." All the arena-haters noted that for future reference? Good.
Gothamist apparently doesn't know about the developer's long-delayed obligation to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor. The Epoch Times did focus on the questionable job numbers.

Bloomberg's opening remarks: economic growth

In his opening remarks, Bloomberg cited his enthusiasm for the arena and "a lot of economic growth, more tax revenues and more jobs." That of course is a bit more complicated.

The city devoted significant subsidies--Bloomberg yesterday said $200 million, though his administration would argue that the number's lower--and the New York City Independent Budget Office called the arena a net loss for the city.



Note that it was a tad ironic for Bloomberg to read, a bit stumblingly, press release praise for Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signatories after he'd previously denounced CBAs as "extortion." Of course he didn't recognize that job-training group BUILD has been sued.

Bloomberg later said, in response to a question, about the possibility of a move by the New York Islanders, "This is an arena that is built so they can have hockey here." Actually, he has the situation exactly backwards: the arena was built for basketball, and could only have about 14,500 seats for hockey.

Ratner's remarks

Ratner, in his remarks, said job fairs would start in a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) project. "We've got to employ everybody in the city, where you live in a NYCHA community or in our [Frank] Gehry building," he said.

"Today is one of the most important days in the history of this arena," he said. "You'll have championships here... It's one of the most important days because we're hiring 2000 people that are local residents... ushers and porters and ticket-takers from our own community."

"That's along with the 8 to 900 jobs, construction jobs, we have working here every single day," he said, not offering a FTE number, "along with the thousands of others that work off-site."



"We call ourselves a civic developer because jobs have always been important," Ratner said. "Whether it be 15,000 jobs at MetroTech, or 2500 jobs across the street, working in our two shopping centers--14 shopping centers built in these boroughs, where we have over 5000 other jobs, jobs are what it's about.... I really have been looking forward to this day, honestly, for eight years."

Markowitz's remarks

Note Borough President Marty Markowitz's statement, "I've always said this arena will create thousands of excellent-paying jobs, and here they come. A promise made, a promise kept." That's not exactly a solid claim.

Also note Bloomberg's introduction of Markowitz with a bit of doggerel.



Comments from NYCHA Chairman John Rhea



Comments from Small Business Services Commissioner Rob Walsh



Community Board 6 committee urges restrictions on variance request for apartment building planned for Bergen Tile site across from arena

Not so fast, a Community Board 6 committee said last night to those planning an apartment building at the Bergen Tile site across from the Barclays Center arena, mainly on busy Flatbush Avenue but also extending around to lower-scale--and quiet, for now--Dean Street.

Photo by Tracy Collins
The Landmarks/Land Use Committee urged restrictions on a developer's request for a variance to add density and eliminate parking from a six-story apartment building with nearly 55 units.

PRD Realty, owners of the triangular Bergen Tile building since 1934, want to make sure there's retail on the ground floor, not use it to meet the city's increasingly antiquated parking minimums, spots for 40% of the units.

While nearly everyone at the meeting, board members and commenters alike, agreed that the city's parking requirements don't fit in a zone near transit, some thought that, given the increased--and increasing--competition for spaces in the neighborhood, some spaces should remain in the building's basement, though not on the street level.

Restrictions on variance request

So the committee, which has only an advisory vote, agreed to support the request for a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals, subject to several conditions: 12 parking spaces in the basement; no commercial entrance along Dean Street, with glass extending only some 40 feet from Flatbush; a six-story maximum height along Flatbush; and a two-story extension along Dean Street above the garage space.

The latter would meet context with its nearest neighbor along the south side of the street, but, of course, vastly out of context with the expected 34-story modular tower Forest City Ratner aims to build and the arena nearing completion.

Council Member Letitia James opposed the application as presented, as did the Dean Street Block Association, giving a push to the committee.

The matter goes to the full Community Board in May, and then to the Board of Standard and Appeals, which is not required to agree. The developer, said attorney Ray Levin, would "prefer not" to follow the conditions requested by the committee. Once a plan is approved, construction could take 18 months--meaning it would continue after the arena opening.

While Atlantic Yards was brought up only a few times, it remains a context. Reprising remarks he made at another committee meeting earlier this week, board member Lou Sones observed, "A lot of people in this neighborhood have been basically screwed."

Either they were kicked out by eminent domain or are inundated by bars, he said, adding, "It was a lose-lose for everybody in the area." (Well, certainly not for some retailers.)

Developer presentation

Video of Levin's initial presentation--though not the Q&A/discussion--is below.



Given the triangular site, as well as the presence of the subway below ground, to fit the full amount of parking, they'd have to build a ramp to go up, thus eliminating a lot of space, Levin said. Instead, the basement would be storage for the retailers and building residents.

He noted that, if they built as of right, because parking doesn't count against bulk limits, the building would be eight stories, even farther out of scale with with its adjacent neighbors, which on Flatbush Avenue are only a couple of stories but could be taller.

Levin later said that the site, given that it was across from the arena, was not seen as a "family-friendly location;" thus the tentative configuration was 25 studios, 20 one-bedroom unites, and eight or nine two-bedroom units. If the market changes, units could be combined.

This is consonant with Forest City Ratner's plans for smaller units in the first residential building. While there's clearly a desire for larger subsidized units, the arrangement of market and affordable units must mirror each other, and singles and couples would be more likely to pay the high market-rate rents, valuing location over tranquility.

Levin said the developer plans affordable housing, though he wouldn't guarantee it would be included at that site. The firm would participate in the 80/20 program, gaining tax breaks for making 20% of the units are subsidized and thus affordable or buying certificates that ensure that affordable housing gets built elsewhere in the city. Skeptical audience members suggested that the latter tactic would be far more likely.

Hardship, support, and criticism

Levin said the application includes a financial analysis that explained why it would be a hardship to build differently--a statement that drew some skepticism, given the increased demand for sites near the arena.

Levin maintained it was unfeasible. "We could develop a two-story commercial building with no parking," he said, but the developer doesn't want to do that. "He's a residential builder." PRD has built the Heritage in Park Slope, among other developments.

Then again, in 2008, the owner was aiming to rent the Bergen Tile site out as retail. PRD also has built the Atrium, a clothing store just down Flatbush Avenue. (Note fines over $10,000 for Department of Buildings violations.)

Regina Cahill of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District said the organization supported the configuration of the building, with retail--not parking--on the first floor. She said that, at six stories, the building was in scale with other properties in the neighborhood.

The Dean Street Block Association sent a letter (below) calling for, among other things, no parking at street level but some below ground; ground floor continuous retail on Flatbush Avenue; and a smaller number of units, meaning larger apartments, and thus a lower demand for parking.

It suggested there was no compelling reason to override the zoning along the Dean Street side of the building to allow a larger building envelope on that segment of the structure.

Council Member James sent a letter expressing skepticism about claims of economic hardship and criticizing the design of the building, suggesting the desire for uniformity crowded out the possibility for a varied structure. She suggested any variance be offered not for the entire parking facility, just the spaces not built.

Dean Street Block Association Letter on 215 Flatbush

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Will streets/sidewalks near arena be overwhelmed? Bloomberg responds confidently: "not really something that's going to happen"

At this morning's press conference on jobs at the Barclays Center, Mayor Mike Bloomberg was asked a question that seemed animated by the recent report, from Atlantic Yards Watch, that the sidewalks near the arena were far smaller than as measured by the state--portending trouble for neighborhood and arena-goers alike.

"Many residents in the area say they're worried that the streets, the quiet brownstone tree-lined streets will be swamped with people on game days and other event days," asked New York Times reporter Joseph Berger, "and that the city and state have done very little to make sure the streets can handle both the car traffic and the pedestrian traffic."



Bloomberg answered confidently. "Well, most people here are going to be on the main streets. Most of the people are going to come by mass transit," he said. "This mass transit to this stadium is equivalent to the mass transit under Madison Square Garden."

"So I don't think those fears are going to be--I think people will realize that's not really something that's going to happen," Bloomberg said confidently, with no acknowledgment of the specific situation at hand. "The stores here want more traffic, and there will be more traffic for those in the commercial businesses, and that's what you want to have, you want to bring more people to the neighborhood, so we create more jobs."

Daily Intel: "Bloomberg Promises 2,000 Jobs at the Barclays Center, Sort of" (with video)

Actually, 1,240 full-time equivalent. Read on. (Or maybe even fewer, since the p/t job numbers don't really add up.)

Here's the video of the question I posed to Mayor Mike Bloomberg, which didn't get an answer from him and provoked a joke from developer Bruce Ratner.

Barclays Center building aims for transparency, but Atlantic Yards project evades it: transportation plan, parking details delayed until late May

Update: why was the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting moved from a tentative May 3 date to May 22? Because the Transportation Demand Management plan requires sign-off from multiple agencies, said Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development.

The buzzword for the Barclays Center arena, insists developer Bruce Ratner in the New York Post exclusive video below, is transparency: transparency from the street, where passersby will be able to see the scoreboard, and from the concourses, where attendees will not be obstructed from the action at hand.

However much transparency may be a design feature, it is most assuredly not a feature of the overall Atlantic Yards project.

Release of the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, aimed to push arena attendees toward public transportation rather than cars, had been delayed yet again, to May 22, given the re-scheduling of the planned Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting from May 3.

No explanation was issued for the rescheduling. That means, for example, that Forest City Ratner's plans for the interim surface parking lot, on which construction starts May 1, will not be revealed until three weeks later.

Forest City can build a lot up to 1,100 spaces, but the larger capacity would require stackers, which neighbors believe would add noise and delay. (I asked the developer yesterday for an update, and was told it would be issued at the meeting.)

Dismay over delay

Local elected officials and community stakeholders have already expressed dismay over the delays--and this adds to that.

The TDM plan was originally supposed to be released in December, then was delayed until February, then delayed until May--early May.

In January, Council Member Steve Levin said of the delay, “Speaking for myself and the constituents that I represent, that's not welcome news. I don't think that's acceptable. We were told this would be coming out this month or in February."

"Obviously, time is running out. A plan put forth in May that's going to be implemented in September does not allow for enough time for adequate public input, for ideas to be addressed," he said.
At a  meeting of the cabinet in March, Community Board 2 District Manager Rob Perris asked for “interim work products” for discussion before May.

"I pondered this,” Forest City executive Jane Marshall said. “It can't be done in a piecemeal way. You can’t break off the parking from the transit. I don't think there are individual pieces that we can present.”

She promised an update in early May, not late May, and “earlier than May if we can do it.” No such update has been issued.

Transparency issues

Numerous questions remain about the arena and the operational plans, many raised by neighborhood residents weighing in about the planned liquor license.

Forest City has been closemouthed in other areas. As developer Bruce Ratner told the 11/8/09 Crain's, "Why should people get to see plans? This isn't a public project."

Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman twice criticized the Empire State Development Corporation, which is Forest City Ratner's evaluator/partner, on transparency. In March 2010, while upholding, barely, the environmental review, Friedman wrote:
While the court cannot find that ESDC lacked any rational basis for its use of the 10 year build-out for the Project, the court cannot ignore the deplorable lack of transparency that characterized ESDC’s review of the 2009 MGPP [Modified General Project Plan].
The case was reopened and, after Friedman evaluated the impact of the belatedly-released Development Agreement, in November 2010, she required the agency to make new findings, citing "what appears to be yet another failure of transparency."

Friedman ultimately ruled that the agency failed to evaluate the 25-year buildout permitted by the documentation, and required a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement. Earlier this month, an appellate court unanimously upheld her ruling.

Bruce Ratner, the arena, and transparency: video

Bloomberg set to announce " a plan to fill 2,000 jobs at the Barclays Center"; FTE, according to state, would be 1,120

See update at bottom on the math.

From City & State First Read's daybook:
11 a.m. – Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces a plan to fill 2,000 jobs at the Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn.
Is that 2,000 positions or 2,000 full-time jobs? In 2005, they were proposing 400 jobs. The state's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) estimated 1,120 full-time equivalent positions.

Presumably many of the jobs are low-skilled part-time jobs, with relatively low wages and benefits that differ significantly those accompanying full-time jobs.

State documentation

From the FEIS:
Arena employment is based on employment data provided by FCRC in March 2006. According to FCRC, there would be 230 full-time and 1,510 part-time workers at the arena. Full- and part-time jobs were converted to FTEs using data from the Wachovia Complex in Philadelphia, which is similar to the proposed arena. Based on the number of events scheduled for the complex in 2005, and general assumptions about the duration of the events, FTE employment would be approximately 1,120.

How many hours per week?

If there are 1,120 FTE arena jobs, subtract the 230 full-time jobs first, which leaves 890 FTE jobs for the 1,510 part-time workers to fill.

Then multiply 890 x 40 hours per week, and divide by 1,510. That means the part-time workers would average 23.6 hours per week.

Regarding Kemistry liquor license application, Millman sends SLA letter urging recognition of concerns about bottle service and closing times

Assemblywoman Joan Millman has backed Prospect Place residents' concerns about the pending state liquor license application from Kemistry Lounge, which on April 23 received a thumbs-down advisory vote from a committee of Community Board Six.

According to her April 24 letter to the State Liquor Authority (below), Millman is concerned about:
1) Bottle service: Kemistry Lounge wishes to be the second establishment in Brooklyn too offer bottle service. Bottle service drastically increases patrons’ incentive to drink and promotes dangerous levels of drunkenness.

2) Closing times: This establishment abuts a quiet residential block and is located near two day-care centers. A set of reasonable closing times must be established.
The proprietors and neighbors are far apart on the issue of closing times; for example, the former have requested a 3:30 am cutoff on weekends, while residents, as well as the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, asked for 2 am.

Millman has not weighed in on the issue of the liquor license for the Barclays Center nearby.

Kemistry Lounge - Millman to SLA Letter

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In today's Times, the lead story regards loss of $19M (or so) taxpayer funds; compare that to coverage of the MTA deal

From today's New York Times, lead story, headlined Company Admits It Bilked Clients on Big Projects:
The giant construction company that worked on Citi Field, the renovation of Grand Central Terminal and scores of other high-profile projects has admitted to a huge fraud scheme in which it overbilled clients for more than a decade and has agreed to pay $56 million in fines and restitution to avoid criminal charges, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

...The scheme carried out by the company defrauded government agencies and private developers of about $19 million, much of it tax money, Ms. Lynch said at a news conference. She was joined by officials from several other agencies to announce a deferred-prosecution agreement.

But the amount is most likely far higher because prosecutors said they believed that Lend Lease conducted the practice for decades and that it extended to other companies.
So, um, some $19 million, most of it tax money, was misappropriated? That's news.

But when Forest City Ratner renegotiates a deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to save much more than that--well, that's buried in an un-bylined short.

Yes, one's a crime and the other a politically freighted negotiation. But there's a similar bottom line: a cost to the public, and a private gain.

I get why a crime might be bigger news. But the gap in attention is way out of whack.

Critic suggests Atlantic Yards "needed a Jane Jacobs to stop it;" I suggest that a failure of eloquence was by no means the largest failure

Updated with comments from Daniel Goldstein

Architecture critic Alexandra Lange, who wrote a devastating takedown of Nicolai Ouroussoff, talked about her new book Writing About Architecture with Project for Public Spaces. An excerpt from the discussion:
In the last chapter of my book I discuss Jane Jacobs, and how she might have reacted to the Atlantic Yards project. I think it needed a Jane Jacobs to stop it — an advocate as eloquent about the costs, and the alternatives, as those seductive Gehry renderings — and for whatever reason, one did not appear. But the activist spirit was by no means dead. It just got diffused into activist non-profits and activist blogs and activist essays. The diffused media landscape made it easier to follow the saga week by week, but perhaps made it harder for any one person to become the voice.
My comments:
I question whether a Jane Jacobs was possible for Atlantic Yards. She would have needed a big media megaphone, and they were not available. Atlantic Yards was not merely a question of architecture and design--it was "jobs, housing, and hoops."
One thing needed was honest and thoughtful architecture criticism (which Ms. Lange focuses on in her book). Had Michael Kimmelman been writing instead of Muschamp and Ouroussoff, there might have been a greater effort to modify the plan, but the arena was non-negotiable.And all the NY dailies supported the project. They did virtually no investigative reporting. The political heavyweights were lined up from the start. The single toughest mainstream coverage was Chris Smith's August 2006 NY mag cover story, but it had no impact on a project already on the train to approval.
The Times published one op-ed about the project--the tone was "pox on both houses*--before the project was approved in 2006. That was in the City section. The first op-ed in the paper at large appeared *after* the project had passed.
It was a longshot, but the only way to stop this project was the courts. And the courts pretty much punted (until the last case, which has been mostly ignored by the press, when they smacked down the Empire State Development Corporation regarding the environmental review for Phase 2). And the press pretty much ignored those earlier cases too, despite some significant eloquence in court.
Failure of eloquence? Maybe, but a lot of other larger failures, including democratic process, press coverage, honesty from government agencies, and developer candor.
Goldstein's comments


Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn added some thoughtful comments, including:
The differences between this era, and this fight, and Jacobs' are too many to enumerate, and differences in the media climate are vast, as Ms. Lange argues. While Robert Moses was extremely formidable, Ms. Jacobs didn't have to deal with the kind of intense, private developer PR and backroom lobbying that we did (it’s fool’s errand to gauge which was more formidable, the point is the nature of each had their unique challenges.) Add the fact that Mayor Bloomberg has been, perhaps, the most powerful powerbroker the city has seen, and we were up against a more formidable opponent with a much more compromised—also prostrate and stenographic—press, cowed by the power of the Ratners and Bloombergs.
What's the Voice today?

I added:
I'd add, contra Ms. Lange's generally thoughtful critique in her book, that Curbed and Brownstoner in no way function as analogues to the Village Voice of Jacobs' era. The differences--depth, commercial pressures, original reporting--are huge. Maybe the Brooklyn Rail of 2004-05, which published some tough and eloquent reportage by Brian Carreira, might qualify. But too few people read his work.
From the book:


Public hearing tomorrow on plan for Bergen Tile site at Flatbush and Dean

A committee of Brooklyn Community Board 6 will hold a public hearing tomorrow at 6 pm regarding the application for an apartment building at the Bergen Tile site, at the corner of the north side of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street opposite the Barclays Center (which is referred to as the southeast corner).

The applicant wants to waive required parking, which has caused community pushback, given the expected arena-related parking crunch, with no provision for residential permit parking. Then again, as surely will be argued, the site is very close to public transit, and parking requirements are increasingly seen as antiquated.

From CB6, which notes two other agenda items:
April 26 Landmarks/Land Use Committee Meeting, 6
PUBLIC HEARING on 215 Flatbush Avenue (BSA Cal. No. 72-12-BZ)
Discussion and formulation of a recommendation on an application submitted to the Board of Standards and Appeals for a variance of Sections 25-23, 23-145 and 23-633 of the Zoning Resolution that would (i) waive the residential off-street parking requirements for the site, and (ii) waive the residential floor area, floor area ratio, open space, lot coverage, maximum base height and maximum building height regulations for the small portion of the site zoned R6B to facilitate the construction of a mixed-use building with retail located on the ground floor and residential dwelling units located on the 2nd through 6th floors at 213-223 Flatbush Avenue aka 456-470 Dean Street (collectively referred to as “215 Flatbush Avenue”) (Block 1135, Lot 11), southeast corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, pursuant to Section 72-21 of the Zoning Resolution.
78th Police Precinct
65 6th Avenue, Courtroom
(between Bergen/Dean Streets)
Brooklyn, NY 11217