Friday, November 30, 2012

At meeting on first Atlantic Yards tower, questions about affordable housing, CBA oversight, design, safety, parking, noise

The meeting last night at Borough Hall was supposed to address the design for B2, the $183 million, 32-story, modular tower that will be the first Atlantic Yards residential building, but the presentation actually went well beyond it to issues not just of neighborhood impact but also affordable housing and hiring.

Photos and set by Tracy Collins
The session, which lasted only about 90 minutes of a projected two-hour length, was mostly low-key, with handful of flash points, including the questionable claim that a Dean Street sidewalk narrowed to five feet could accommodate arena crowds.

There were perhaps 60 people in the audience, many of them apparently more interested in issues like affordable housing--applications should be available in January 2014--than the impacts of construction. The building will have 363 units, with 181 (50%) subsidized for low-, moderate-, and middle-income renters.

Representatives of developer Forest City Ratner and its associates were mostly surefooted regarding plans for the building, stressing that there should be less noise, fewer deliveries, and a faster construction schedule--all of which should add up to a decreased impact on neighbors near the building on Dean Street just east of Flatbush Avenue bordering the arena.

The design was presented as far more varied than the shorthand "Lego" style used in some press accounts, with significant testing to ensure safety.

Some fuzziness

But they were fuzzy on some controversial issues, such as the actual number of jobs, as well as the amount of larger apartments available for lower-income renters. And, rather than being presented as a cost-saving tactic, the modular plan was explained as an opportunity for innovation--a legitimate but incomplete answer.

“Why did you wait until three weeks before the groundbreaking to present these plans to the community?” one audience member asked, in a question submitted in writing to the moderators, Rob Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2, and Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6.

“So we committed to do a groundbreaking by the end of year, so December 18 gets us in there,” Forest City Ratner External VP Ashley Cotton responded, “and we were finalizing plans with our partner Skanska, our financing, and so I guess the timing of all the things, if you line them up, today was a great day to be able to share absolutely everything with you guys, now that it’s all come to fruition.”Forest City Ratner Public Presentation of B2, Nov. 29, 2012

Official backing

In the audience were several officials from Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, including CEO Kenneth Adams and his Chief of Staff, Justin Ginsburgh. Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project for ESD, called it “a really exciting day for all of us.”

“The next chapter of the Atlantic Yards project is upon us. Forest City Ratner has delivered us a spectacular arena,” she said, and there’s “ every reason to believe the first building will be just as impressive.”

Not only would the tower, with 363 apartments, “further change landscape of Downtown Brooklyn,” Hankin declared, it has “the potential to change the construction industry around the world,” given that it would be the tallest building in the world built in modules constructed at a factory and trucked to the site.

Markowitz, with Jane Marshall and Terence Kelly
Borough President Marty Markowitz saluted “the triumphant opening of America's most beautiful arena” and said that the plan to ensure that half of the units will be affordable would be “keeping the promise made by Forest City Ratner and all of those who supported it.” (Not quite, as noted below.)

“With tonight's exciting new announcement, we have opportunity to create... potentially a new industry in Brooklyn,” Markowitz said, suggesting that “modular has the potential to create thousands of jobs.”

Leading off

Melissa Roman Burch, Forest City’s Senior VP for residential/commercial construction, said B2 was nearly in place, given that they’ve established a new modular factory with Skanska and achieved collective bargaining with union labor.
Melissa Burch and Bob Sanna
“All financing commitments are in place with HDC [New York City Housing Development Corporation] and Bank of New York Mellon to permit construction,” she added. (Actually, NYC HDC, which did have its one required hearing this past July, told me yesterday that its board next week will be voting approval of tax-exempt financing of up to $100 million.)

They're still waiting for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development to approve some apartment design issues.

Affordable housing

As described in the chart at right, there would be 75 subsidized studios, 70 1BR units, and 36 2BR units.

Burch noted that every apartment would have a washer and dryer, and the building would have such amenities as a fitness center, game room, and yoga/dance studio.

Given that there are 36 subsidized two-bedroom units and only 12 market-rate units, they skew toward affordability, Burch noted.

(However, that’s still well behind the developer’s promises in the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding signed with ACORN, and was increased only due to pressure from NYC HDC, as I described in an article for City Limits' Brooklyn Bureau.)

The program, she said, was created by Forest City and its Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) partner Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY), “and in close partnership with leading Bertha Lewis, Jon Kest, and Ismene Speliotis.”

The latter three were top officials in NY ACORN, which actually signed the housing deal in May 2005. ACORN is now defunct, and MHANY operates as somewhat of a successor.

Unlike in some subsidized buildings, the affordable units will be distributed throughout the entire building. Tenants will be chosen through a city-administered lottery, with applications available in January 2014, approximately six months before the building is expected to get its Temporary Certificate of Occupancy.

All rental apartments, whether market or affordable, will be subject to rent stabilization.

An expansion switch to encompass CB 3?

Burch said that 50% of affordable units will be set aside for residents of Community Boards 2, 3, 6,and 8. That represents an apparent expansion of plans.

In July 2006, when presenting affordable housing plans, Forest City officials said half the units would be set aside for residents of Community Boards 2, 6,and 8--each of which has a part of the 22-acre Atlantic Yards footprint.

In the CBA, the “neighboring community” is defined as encompassing CBs 2, 6, and 8. CB 3 is nearby, and likely includes an even larger percentage of needy people. (I’ll check more on this expansion.)

Who’s eligible?

Burch pointed to a chart showing current eligibility, based on the current federal AMI (Area Median Income) of $83,000 for a family of four.

That AMI, which is based not just on Brooklyn but on more affluent suburban counties, is likely to increase by 2014.

She gave two examples. A single person earning $25,000 would fall into Band 2. The rent for a studio would be $640 a month.

A mother with two kids, earning $50,000 a year, would “fall into Band 5,” she said, the correcting herself to say “Band 3.” That would mean $1,433 for a two-bedroom unit.

Capacity of apartments

What are capacity levels for the units?

Burch said they needed to hear from official agencies, but studios and 1 BR units generally hold one or two people, while 2 BR units could contain households from two to four people.

“Those determinations are part of the applications review process by the city,” she said, and are dealt with on a case by case basis.

Another example: family of 4 < $50K

A moderator read a question: how many units would there be for a family of four making less than $50,000?

“I’m not sure I'll be able to do the quick math,” Burch responded, a bit fuzzily. Given a total of 36 2 BR units, “that would be partially Band 3, and then also Band 2 and Band 1. So I'm not able to do that math to provide specific numbers right here today, but there are units that are set aside to accommodate that.”

Actually, as I described in an article for City Limits' Brooklyn Bureau, of those 36 subsidized two-bedroom units, nine would go to low-income families (Bands 1 and 2) and five to moderate-income ones (Band 3).

However, Band 3 starts at $49,800 for a four-person family and goes up to $83,000, which suggests perhaps only one family earning under $50,000 would be among the five chosen in that Band 3.

(Those numbers could still change, but there is a skew.)

CBA oversight

What role will CBA signatories have in oversight of housing and employment?

Ashley Cotton in center
“We mentioned Bertha Lewis and her colleagues earlier, and this was all done in coordination with them and will continue to be in coordination with them,” responded Cotton.

How will the CBA goals be monitored, read Hammerman.

“They’ll be monitored by our great CBA team; we see representatives here today, and with Forest City,” Cotton said. “And I assume that question’s also directed at when we're hiring an Independent Compliance Monitor, and those plans are still underway.” (That’s been delayed for years, allowing Forest City Ratner to evade such oversight.)

There are no plans to sign a new CBA, Cotton confirmed, responding to a question some thought a bit out of left field. (Then again, job-training signatory BUILD is now defunct, so that capacity is no longer being filled.)

The rest of the housing?

What about the other two residential buildings on the arena block?

Burch said they expect to break ground every 6 to 9 months after a building is completed.

What about affordable ownership, which was part of the agreement with ACORN?

“Right now, we're here to present plans for B2,” Burch said. “I don't have a date or timeline for when those units will be available... we will meet the commitments.”

Regarding issues like senior housing and home ownership, “we wish we had answers too,” Cotton said. “We’ll come to you with future plans as the other buildings unfold.” The project is supposed to include 6,430 apartments, including 4,500 rentals, half of them subsidized.

Where will B2 residents park? 

As noted by Atlantic Yards Watch, the only parking area designated in project documents not currently used for something else is the surface lot in block 1129, and that lot has been nearly full several times during arena events, leaving few existing spaces for future B2 residents.

There will be 146 spaces, both striped at the surface and using stackers, at Block 1129, Cotton said.

Previously, the number of onsite spaces was reduced from 1100 to 541 (plus 24 spaces for place) because, most likely, using stackers for arena patrons would be loud and unwieldy.

Given that residents would enter and leave in a less concentrated manner, stackers may work better for them.

Noise and that pesky bass 

Residents more than a block away have complained that bass from Jay-Z and Sensation concerts has penetrated their homes, and it’s certainly perceivable on the sidewalks outside the arena.

So, how will these units adjacent to the arena be protected from such noise?

“So, we are aware of the music reports,” Cotton said. “and we are currently studying them, and any solutions that are needed will be applied to the arena.”

Supplemental EIS

What is the status of of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) ordered by a court to study the community impacts of a potential 25-year project buildout, as opposed to the long-stated ten-year timetable and the potential for a 15-year extended buildout acknowledged in ESD's 2009 re-approval of the project.

“We hope to get out the draft scope of the SEIS before the end of the year," Hankin said, "but this is not really relevant to this discussion.” The SEIS addresses Phase 2, east of Sixth Avenue, not the towers on the arena block.

Open space for residents?

Can there be any temporary open space near the building?

“Right now, open space is really in Phase 2, east of Sixth Avenue,” responded Forest City executive Jane Marshall. “We have temporary open space on B3 [at the northwest corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue]. And that’s really all the land we can give to open space, and when B3 goes away, there not be there any more."

How many construction jobs?

“Modular construction will require approximately the same number of man-hours as conventional construction,” Burch said, in a statement that surprised some in the audience. (I’ve expressed skepticism.)

If that’s true, then Forest City would be saving only on compensation per worker, without having fewer workers.

The fabrication facility will be full-time, with approximately 125 union employees, plus 25 supervisors, meaning 150 staff.

Hiring will be done win partnership with job training center at the Brooklyn Navy Yard with a preference to union apprentice programs like NEW, Construction Skills, and Helmets to Hardhats. There will also be a preference for residents of CBs 2, 3, 6, and 8, as well as public housing residents.

The workforce CBA hiring goals remain intact: 35% minority workers and 10% female workers.

Sharples (l.) and Farnsworth
I submitted a question that was read and responded to somewhat quizzically: “How many construction workers, in job-years, are needed to build the building.”

“I can't tell you,” Cotton responded.

That term job-years, however, has been the way Atlantic Yards construction jobs have long been described and projected: 15,000 jobs = 15,000 job-years.

Design and construction issues

Architect Chris Sharples of the firm SHoP said that, when the first started on B2 some 2.5 years ago, it was  a conventional building. “It was a surprise to take this and transform it into a modular one.”

They still had to address design guidelines, breaking down the massing, which he described as “a series of three volumetric setbacks,” including “white cube” and “the wedge, along Flatbush.”

Each has a different look. The white cube has a perforated metal mesh, while the upper segment has a beveled frame in which “the metal panels stick out and project off the facade,” painted pewter and silver gray, colors expected to change.

Building modular requires architects to conceal the “mate lines” between the modules. Joints are covered by millwork, or wood oak flooring. Some 90% arrives factory finished, including floor finishes, electrical appliances, mechanical equipment, and even the facade. “The idea is to bring a high quality finished product to the construction site.”

Still, they’re able to open up the “mods” and create larger spaces, he said.

David Farnsworth of the engineering firm Arup said the building is up to the same code standards as a conventional building, and the structural system has been vetted through an independent peer review, by the firm Thornton Tomasetti. 

The wind loading and responses have been confirmed through wind tunnel testing.

Everything at the first floor and below will be built just like a regular building, with a hole dug for the basement and a concrete substructure. The ground floor will have steel beams and concrete floor steps 
A steel platform will be used to stack the modules.

Because the modules are fully finished, the building will appear “pretty much complete,” floor by floor.

Farnsworth said six modules were tested, and scale models were tested in a wind tunnel. 

Forest City construction chief Bob Sanna said the team did visit the current tallest building, a 25-story tower in the UK, which, unlike B2, has a concrete core. “They did have tolerance issues,” he said.

The benefits of modular

Sanna said the building would take only 20 months to build (from the time excavation began), rather than, as once projected, 30 months. That’s because module fabrication occurs at the same time site work occurs.

The chassis of the modules, he said, would be fabricated in Fredericksburg, VA. At the factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the modules will be created.

Burch said modular should mean less noise and fewer deliveries, as well as a safer work environment for workers. Detailed production drawings mean less waste.

The modules, no greater than 15 feet wide and between 20 to 50 feet in length (and typically closer to 30 feet), will be shipped by truck during the day. Eight to 12 modules will be delivered between rush hours, taking a route from the Navy Yard to the site, down Flatbush Avenue.

One module will be delivered at night and stored overnight, so early morning crews can work on it. "This project doesn't contemplate any actual work after hours," Sanna said.


Why modular?

What the motivated the decision to go modular?

"We talked about a lot of benefits," Cotton said, referring to speed and less neighborhood impact. "We're also excited about a new manufacturing industry here in Brooklyn... This factory could be very busy."

All true, but as Forest City stated in another industry presentation (above), the motivation also includes cost savings, price certainty, and risk mitigation.

Uh-oh: Dean Street sidewalk at B2 construction site, adjacent to arena entrance, will narrow to five feet; crowds already cause overflows

The current sidewalk: 13'11"
In presenting plans last night for B2, the 32-story residential tower slated to be the world’s tallest modular building, developer Forest City Ratner and its partners sounded like they had thought through almost every issue.

[See a full report on the meeting.]

They stressed that, by building most of the components inside a factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, there would be less noise, fewer deliveries, and a faster construction schedule--all of which should add up to a decreased impact on neighbors near the tower bordering the Barclays Center at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue.

After an arena event, on Dean Street
The plan (full presentation)


But construction also means that, for one year, the sidewalk on the north side of Dean east of Flatbush--already periodically overburdened by crowds streaming to and from the arena entrance on Dean-- will narrow to just five feet, a situation that left some Prospect Heights neighbors incredulous.

That would leave only one lane of traffic on Dean Street.
Construction site in background on right

The current width, according to a memo by state consultants, is as narrow as 13’11”, with an effective width--minus obstructions and “shy distance”--of 9.4 feet.

(That would be the sidewalk condition when the building opens.)

With only five feet, that's a significant decrease.

Once the building is finished, the permanent effective width, however, could be functionally even more narrow, according to Peter Krashes of Atlantic Yards Watch, because the sidewalk will continue to be narrow while the demands on it will be increased -- in part because of retail on the ground floor.

As Krashes wrote, "the width of the sidewalk adjacent to B2... may now have a permanent effective width of 3.5 feet, hardly substantial enough for a busy sidewalk supporting a large arena entrance, a loading dock and a lay-by lane."

A 10-foot walkway will be maintained on Flatbush, with a five-foot walkway on Dean, Forest City construction chief Bob Sanna said last night at the meeting, held at Borough Hall. At the Dean Street entrance, a covered platform will protect the arena pedestrian entrance.

Can it work?

Crowds outside arena entrance where sidewalk bulges out
Questions from the audience, written on index cards, were read by the moderators, Rob Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2 and Craig Hammerman of Community Board 6. How can that volume of traffic be accommodated--were any pedestrian counts done?

"They were all approved by the DOT [Department of Transportation], so they were responsible for doing the studies and determining that this is appropriate," responded Ashley Cotton, Forest City’s head of external affairs.

“You think five feet will be enough to accommodate arena patrons?” queried Prospect Heights resident Robert Puca incredulously, from the audience. "How is that possible?"

“Well, we believe it's possible, and so does DOT, and that's who approves it," Cotton replied.

“Ashley, you see what happens after games,” Puca responded, before he was quieted by the moderators for speaking out of turn.

(As Atlantic Yards Watch showed in a video, after a recent Nets game, crowds overflowed the Dean Street sidewalk and streamed into the street.)

Later, a question was raised: has any pedestrian count been taken after arena events?

“Not to my knowledge,” responded Marshall.

Perhaps, but there have been people with clipboards apparently counting monitoring pedestrians on Dean Street.

On video

[Note that the audio is out of sync--I will try to fix. Video shot by Jonathan Barkey.]


Adjustments coming

After the formal Q&A concluded, Cotton took the microphone. “Let's talk a little about sidewalks, and the crowds coming out of the arena,” she said. “To put it in a more human way, first of all, DOT says it's fine. We think it's going to be fine. But as you've seen over last two months, we adjust very well to arena occurrences."

“We're going to have look very closely at this, and get ready for a new model, and so we admit that,” she said. “We spend a lot of time with arena operations. They understand what's coming. We will monitor crowd control in a whole new way, with this adjustment. Clearly it's an adjustment. We don't want to pretend it's not.

DOT trying to cope

From the audience, DOT official Chris Hrones got up. “I don't know if I would use the word fine.” he said. “I think this is the best we can do. We worked closely with Forest City to try to get as much pedestrian space, to try to keep impacts off Flatbush Avenue. Five feet for construction is our minimum requirement. Would we have liked to have more? Absolutely... [but we] couldn't make it work.”

He said the arena is expected to pro-actively manage pedestrian flow. He noted that, for fire safety reasons, the Barclays Center can't keep the Dean Street entrance closed, so they’ll be “actively directing people to other entrances” to minimize the flow when they exit the building.

“I kept hearing DOT thinks it fine,” Hrones said, a little sheepishly. “I know what you're trying to say, but I just want to clarify, it's not our ideal, it does meet our minimum standards... but obviously, I can understand what people's concerns are, it's the best we can do... We're going to have to work as we go through it on measures that will help manage that pedestrian flow.”

Cotton said “we agree completely,” adding that “our partners in the police have been excellent... we understand your concerns and will monitor it," just as they've done in the past two months.

Truck routes

The modules, no greater than 50 feet wide and between 20 to 50 feet in length (and typically closer to 30 feet), will be shipped by truck during the day. Eight to 23 modules will be delivered between rush hours, taking a route from the Navy Yard to the site, down Flatbush Avenue.

One module will be delivered at night and stored overnight, so early morning crews can work on it. No night work is expected.

Sanna was a bit fuzzy on what happens to the trucks after the delivery. He first suggested that they could turn either right or left on Sixth Avenue to reach either Flatbush or Atlantic avenues. One of his colleagues corrected him, saying the only permissible route is a left on Sixth to Atlantic.

“That's a two-way street,” uttered Puca. "How can a truck possibly make a left turn?"

“We've done the truck turning radius, and it can be done,” responded Forest City executive Jane Marshall. “It's entirely possible to do.”

What about bike lane?

“Even with the [Dean Street] bike lane?” Puca asked. "What happens to the bike lane?"

“The bike lane is shared in the construction period with the drive lane,” Marshall responded.

"Is the bike lane on Dean maintained, or do cranes take up that space?" read Hammerman.

“It's maintained, but as a shared bike line,” Cotton added.

It will be only 12 feet wide.

After pre-rusting the Barclays Center facade, the metal drips, after all

Photos by AYInfoNYC
A reader pointed me to this piece at the end of the New York Times's 11/27/12 Appraisal column: Arena Leaves Its Mark:
Love it or hate it, the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn is open and here to stay. As supporters and detractors alike keep their eyes peeled for shifts in traffic patterns and the fabric of surrounding neighborhoods, one messy prospect has already come to pass.
The deliberately rusted facade has dripped patches of bright orange onto some of the surrounding sidewalks, and left them looking as though a very tall and mischievous teenager had gone at them with a can of pumpkin-colored spray paint.
The facade of the arena is made of 12,000 panels of a material called weathering steel, which is made to rust quickly and then, once a protective layer of rust has formed, to slow the rusting process almost to a stop. But while it may look rugged, the steel bleeds bits of fiery color onto the surrounding area, especially in its early life.
The steel on the Barclays Center was weathered in advance of being mounted on the arena, spending about four months at a plant in Indianapolis being put through more than a dozen wet and dry cycles a day. In part, this was done to get some of the dripping out of the way elsewhere.
Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the Barclays Center, said in an e-mail that the arena staff had expected the discoloration and planned to clean the sidewalk with, essentially, a “sidewalk power wash,” sometime in the next few weeks and then again as needed.
My observation:
Well, pre-rusting was not expected to accomplish everything. So some dripping may be expected. Then again, the potential for such dripping on the sidewalk was not, to my knowledge, publicly disclosed or analyzed.
The Times reported 8/29/12:
To fend off some of the headaches, the steel on the Barclays Center was weathered before it ever made it to Brooklyn. Gregg Pasquarelli, a principal at SHoP Architects, which designed the arena, said the steel components spent about four months at an Indianapolis plant where they were put through more than a dozen wet-and-dry cycles a day. (Mr. Pasquarelli said the arena looked to him like what would happen if “Richard Serra and Chanel created a U.F.O. together.")
The process put about six years of weathering onto the steel, according to Robert Sanna, an executive vice president and director at Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Barclays Center. So while there probably will be some rusty dripping, Ms. Sanna said, “this should keep it to a minimum, and you won’t have to worry that it will stain your sweater as you walk by.”

So there has been "some rusty dripping." 

Wonder if he thinks it has been kept "to a minimum."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

FAQ on Forest City Ratner's B2 plans: timing, cost ($24M less than 80 DeKalb), profits, workers, union deal, affordability

Updated with new numbers about the cost of the building.

Some questions and answers regarding what's known about Forest City Ratner's plans for B2, the first residential tower in the Atlantic Yards project, claimed to be cheaper, faster, greener--and with less impact on the surroundings (though see questions for tonight's community meeting.)

So, why did Forest City Ratner wait until yesterday to announce that B2 would be modular, given there was much evidence that plan was already in place?

As Gib Veconi wrote in Prospect Heights Patch:
But as we found out yesterday from the New York Times, the factory has been in operation for some time. Because modular construction means fewer jobs and lower pay for construction workers, the more practical reason for the delay in announcing the use of modular has more to do with negotiating a deal with their unions who were strong initial supporters of the project. 
Image via NY Daily News
I'd add that they also had to get a financing deal in place. But the announcement was well coordinated: a scoop for the New York Times, with questions unanswered, then a press release (below).

What will the building look like?

Check the image at left, from the Daily News. Then consider the perspective, from a hovercraft, given how small the arena looks. From the street, however, there should be glass.

How much will the building cost? How does it compare to other buildings, notably Forest City Ratner's 80 DeKalb? (Updated with NYC HDC figures.)

In a little noticed companion press release (also below), the firm Skanska announced that the contract to build the tallest modular building in the United States--they're not saying the world, perhaps because of plans in China to build much bigger--at $117 million.

Beyond that, information from the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) puts the total at $183 million, including a tax-exempt first mortgage of nearly $92 million, an HDC second mortgage of $11.6 million, $10.7 million and Forest City equity of $68.7 million.

That latter figure, however, includes a $34.3 million land acquisition cost, which suggests that Forest City has had to raise only $34.4 million in outside financing.

So this does look like a better deal for Forest City Ratner than the similar 80 DeKalb Avenue tower, which Forest City Ratner regarded as a test run for Atlantic Yards housing. That building cost $207.3 million, including $109.5 million in tax-exempt bonds and $27.5 million in taxable bonds from the New York State Housing Finance Agency. (See graphic below.)

Also note that the $117 million construction cost announced by Skanska leaves $3 million in wiggle room, given the NYC HDC figure of $120 million in construction costs.

The numbers for 80 DeKalb
Will Forest City Ratner reach its goal of $161/square foot for modular construction (excluding such things as foundation work and elevators) as described in negotiations with a previous firm?

It appears so. The Skanska press release stated:
As part of the contract, Skanska will subcontract approximately $56 million to a company created together with FCRC, called FC+Skanska Modular, LLC. The new company will fabricate the modular components of the building in a 150,694 square-feet factory located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
340,000 square feet multiplied by $161/sf comes out to $54.74 million.

When will the building be finished?

The Forest City and Skanska press releases both said 2014. The Daily News reported that the developer said summer 2014. Note that the groundbreaking date has been repeatedly pushed back.

Who'll get the benefit of the profits?

The Daily News reported:
"The idea is to make the development more cost effective," said William Flemming, president and CEO of Skanska USA Building. "How they pass along the savings to the end user is up to them. This is not a new type of building. We're working to perfect it with each new project type."
Forest City Ratner executive MaryAnne Gilmartin told investment analysts last month:
"We believe if we go modular, it would be invisible to the consumer. This building should perform at the level of finish, fit and feel commensurate with a conventional building, so it is priced accordingly."
Does modular mean cookie-cutter?

Forest City says no. As noted in the Daily News, "There will be 23 different unit types with 64 variations."

How many workers will there be at the factory?

The Forest City press release stated, "They estimate that there will be 125 unionized workers employed at the fabrication facility beginning in late spring, 2012 when modular production is fully under way."

However, Curbed reported in November 2011:
Aaaaand about those unions: though only 40% of the labor force will work onsite, the labor required at the factory adds up to what the developer claims is the same amount of total labor hired for the project, around 190 workers.
I interpreted that as meaning 190 people would work in the factory. But if 125 workers represent 60% of the total, the total would be about 208 workers. So maybe 190 is the total.

Update: There will be 125 union workers and 25 supervisors at the factory, according to Forest City Ratner. That means additional workers on site.

Will there still be 15,000 or 17,000 construction jobs, in job-years? 

So claimed Forest City spokesman Joe DePlasco last November. Ratner told the Times last November that modular construction would "probably" require the same number of workers. In calculations yesterday, I suggested the number of workers could be cut by more than 50%.

(A commenter disagreed with my math, but let's see if more details emerge.)

Update: Forest City says the number of man-hours will be approximately the same, but wouldn't answer a question about a similar calculation: the number of job-years involved.

What do the unions say?

From the Forest City press release:
Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said, “Today, we move forward with an innovative approach to development that will allow us to realize the vision of the Atlantic Yards project and create traditional construction jobs that may otherwise have been at risk. And as we bring training, skill, quality and safety to modular construction through a strong labor-management partnership on this project, we see the potential to have this approach improve our competitiveness elsewhere in the local market and expand into an export industry to create even more sustainable union jobs that pay good wages and benefits.”
From the Times:
Under the new agreement, Mr. La Barbera said union factory workers would earn $55,000 a year, 25 percent less than the average union construction worker. But, he said, the trade-off is that the factory worker will work steady hours throughout the year, regardless of the weather.
“We see this as an opportunity to get into markets we’re not in,” Mr. La Barbera said. We can’t ignore an emerging industry. We see it as creating more job opportunities in residential construction.”
From the Daily News:
"The industry is evolving and we have to evolve with it," said Gary La Barbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. "This is an area that we are not actively involved in. It opens up new markets for us and allows us to make inroads with residential and affordable building, two areas we need to do better."
And the pay cut?
"It's not a pay cut," said La Barbera. "We're trying to create jobs for our members. I mean this as a 125-person modular jobs and we have 100,000 members. Also, the first six months of this job are no different than a regular job with site excavation and building the steel structure. This whole thing is a win-win for everyone."
Do those arguments make sense?

Maybe. Partly. There is a clear pay cut. The number of workers at Atlantic Yards seems to be far fewer than the number promised, with the wages lower. 

However, if this new industry is successful--and questions remain--it could mean more union jobs overall. But could there be union work at the factory, with non-union jobs outside the factory?

The unions, interestingly enough, apparently agreed that they didn't have enough leverage to maintain the original Atlantic Yards promises. Given that Forest City Ratner promised to build union, it would seem that the unions had great leverage.

Would half "of the 363 apartments... be for poor and working-class families," as the Times suggested yesterday?

No. That's sloppy shorthand for subsidized, "affordable" units for low- to moderate-income households, with the highest "affordable" rents currently estimated at $2,700 a month for a two-bedroom unit--below market, but hardly cheap.

There will be 150 studios (41%), 165 one bedroom (46%) and 48 two bedrooms (13%). Most of the "families" will be pretty small, though 20% of the affordable units will be two-bedroom units.

How does that compare to initial promises, that 50% of the affordable units, in terms of floor area, would be two- and three-bedroom units?

Way off. There aren't even any three-bedroom units.

Why is that?

Because the city offers subsidy per unit, not per bedroom, and it costs Forest City more to build larger units. Also, the city and Forest City's Community Benefits Agreement partners have pushed back only partially, accepting a deviation from the pledge.

Also, I suspect that it's far easier to rent high-cost market-rate units to transient singles and couples, rather than families raising kids. Who wants to raise kids next to an arena, with crowds most nights a week in the early evening? Remember, the towers around the arena were originally supposed to be office buildings, with the tenants leaving the premises before arena events.

What will the building look like?

See graphics up top and zoning diagram at right (also below, in PDF). From the Forest City press release:
The exterior of the building will have a series of setbacks that have been articulated and integrated into the overall building’s massing. In addition to these volumetric breaks a variety of materials, colors and fabrication techniques have been utilized to create an intricate play of light, pattern and texture over the façade. Deep metal frames cantilever beyond the glazed openings of the residential units, each being accented by a series of beveled and perforated metal panels. The inlaid metal panels are dressed with accents of color, heightening the play of light and shadow across their smooth and articulated surfaces. At grade, full story glazed storefronts will be accented by covered entrances to the three new towers extending a more scaled intimacy, typical of Brooklyn’s streetscape along all the elevations of the arena site.
Has journalism on this been tough?

Here's a comment on the Daily News article: "We know that the NYDN is in the tank for the Barclays Center, home of Daily News Plaza. Now in the tank for Bruce Ratner as well? Rewritten press release above."


Modular Building Release b 2 Zoning Diagram A source-provided video  Attached to the Times article yesterday was a nifty animation, with all the modules popping in together, without any human intervention. No source was provided.  
On this Times video page, however, and on the link from the embedded video, it's clear the source is the engineering firm Arup, a partner in the venture with Forest City Ratner.

AY Watch: Questions for tonight's meeting about B2 design: construction plans, sidewalk use, parking, noise, and more


Atlantic Yards Watch has posed several questions regarding the meeting tonight at Borough Hall, 6:30 pm, regarding design plans for B2, the first Atlantic Yards tower

Among them:
  • What are the construction plans for B2, in terms of sidewalk and lane closures, and delivery of modular units?
  • How will sidewalk use be affected by B2 construction, given that arena events already overburden sidewalks?
  • Where will B2 residents park, given that no plan has been announced?
  • How will problems with noise escaping from the arena be addressed, given that bass already penetrates buildings farther away.
  • Where will B2 residents find open space, given the lack of such space.
Other questions, such as plans for affordable housing and hiring of local residents, given the decrease of jobs under modular construction, are likely to be ruled out of bounds.

But they are no less worthy of discussion. For the full post, go to Atlantic Yards Watch.

More hiring at the Barclays Center; enlarging the pool, or coping with layoffs already?

There's more hiring at the Barclays Center, but, in the absence of any evidence of more jobs, it looks like they're just refilling or enlarging the pool of potential part-time workers.

If they're just re-filling the pool, then, that suggests some earlier hires are getting laid off. (I queried Forest City Ratner yesterday but didn't hear back.

It's doubtful that they plan to staff the arena with more people; a Forest City executive said last month "We wanted to be sure to open right, so some of the staffing levels, et cetera, have been higher than we would anticipate over the long term."

New hiring: concessions and housekeeping

A message from Community Board 2 yesterday:
Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) has announced two new job opportunities at the Barclays Center, for concessions workers and housekeeping positions.
These positions are separate from the recruitment drive held over the summer, as well as the overnight positions announced in October and the line cook jobs announced earlier this month.
FCRC has committed to prioritizing the hiring of candidates from Community Boards 2, 3, 6 and 8, NYCHA residents and graduates of BUILD.
Pre-screening recruitment events will be held in Downtown Brooklyn today through Friday, November 28-30. All interested and qualified candidates must attend a pre-screening event to be considered for a position. Registration is required to attend pre-screening events. Final interviews will be conducted starting Friday, November 30, 2012.
Registration is here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

With bank and unions on board, Forest City ready to test modular constrution; Times scoop doesn't point out that number of jobs likely cut more than 50%

So much for those consistent claims that Forest City Ratner "hadn't decided" whether it would build the first Atlantic Yards tower using modular technology--claims that, as I reported last month, were highly questionable.

Now that a bank is on board, as are unions, so the news is ready to be released.

And the New York Times scoop, which describes a 25% wage cut, does not offer a comparison between the long-promised claims of Atlantic Yards total construction jobs and the potential now--though, as I describe below, there's a significant gap, greater than 50%.

Nor does the article describe what the new figures--both in terms of wage cuts and fewer jobs--do to calculations of Atlantic Yards' fiscal impact. And the construction unions offer Ratner a bye, no longer pointing out that Ratner has reneged on promises.

The news

In At Atlantic Yards, Ready to Test Plans for Prefab Tower, the New York Times's Charles Bagli reports:
In a warehouse deep inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a small team of carpenters, electricians and engineers have secretly labored for months on an assembly system for turning tubular steel chassis into fully equipped apartments that can be stacked and bolted together at a construction site.

On Dec. 18, they will be put to the test, as Bruce C. Ratner, chief executive of Forest City Ratner, breaks ground for the world’s tallest prefabricated, or modular, building, a 32-story residential tower at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street. It is the first of 15 planned modular buildings at the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards site; some are to rise to 50 stories.

If it works, Mr. Ratner and his partners say, they will be at the forefront of a new industry.

It is an ambitious and risky undertaking, more so than the $1 billion Barclays Center arena that Mr. Ratner opened there three months ago.
Savings passed on?

The Times reports:
If Mr. Ratner has, as he claims, “cracked the code,” it could lead to more affordable housing, or it could simply mean greater profits for the developer.
Note that executive MaryAnne Gilmartin told investment analysts last month, "We believe if we go modular, it would be invisible to the consumer. This building should perform at the level of finish, fit and feel commensurate with a conventional building, so it is priced accordingly."

New partnership

The Times describes "a financing commitment from Bank of New York" and "a partnership with Skanska," a Sweden-based construction company operating the factory in the Navy Yard. 

Union deal

While unions had expected to earn $85 an hour in wages and benefits, it won't be the same:
Gary La Barbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council, acknowledged that the unions had lost ground to nonunion residential contractors in recent years and were largely absent from the affordable housing field.
Under the new agreement, Mr. La Barbera said union factory workers would earn $55,000 a year, 25 percent less than the average union construction worker. But, he said, the trade-off is that the factory worker will work steady hours throughout the year, regardless of the weather.
We see this as an opportunity to get into markets we’re not in,” Mr. La Barbera said. We can’t ignore an emerging industry. We see it as creating more job opportunities in residential construction.”
That of course is something of a pivot. Atlantic Yards was promised as union-build, affordable housing construction. 

So if the implication is that, however much they lose on this project, they'll make it up another way, that wasn't what the unions signed on for.

How many jobs?

The Times reported that there would be 125 workers at the factory--a number once 190--with 60% of the work done there, saving the developer "as much as 20 percent on construction costs and cut the delivery time to 18 months, from 28 months." Savings would increase on the rest of the 15 towers.

How many jobs were there be--could there be 15,000 construction jobs (in job-years) as once promised, or 17,000 job-years, as detailed in some official documents?

Not even close.

If 125 workers represent 60% of the work, that suggests there would be about 208 workers total. If they all work 18 months straight--not likely for those in the field--that means the first tower, with 363 units, would require 312 job-years.

The number of job-years is about 86% of the total number of units.

That implies that the total 6,430 units would generate some 5,530 job-years. Add in an office tower, on long-term hold, and the total might go up, say, 10-15%. 

But that's still way off the original promises. Even if there are 6,500 total job-years, that suggests a total of 43.3% of 15,000 job-years and 38.2% of 17,000 job-years.

What's affordable?

The Times reports:
(Half of the 363 apartments in the first building will be for poor and working-class families.)  
Not so. Moderate-income subsidized units are hardly for "working-class families." Who can afford $2,700 a month--surely more when the building's done--for a two-bedroom unit?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NYC rivalry amps up with Nets win over Knicks; Mayor salutes "great Bruce Ratner;" Markowitz crows; Yormark says Brooklyn has "a team to be proud of" (what about Atlantic Yards promises?)

So the guys wearing Brooklyn Nets uniforms beat the guys (minus a few out for injuries) wearing New York Knicks uniforms last night in an overtime game that had the Barclays Center rocking, bringing the Nets tied with the Knicks in first place in their division.

The news, according to the New York Post cover at right, was more important than the bill from Superstorm Sandy. The Daily News, below left, was slightly more modest.

"The city is under new management," tweeted Jay-Z, aka Shawn Carter, prompting a mere 7600-plus re-tweets.
 
"Brooklyn Nets are Kings' of NYC...How sweet it is!" declared Borough President Marty Markowitz, who earlier clashed publicly with Spike Lee, a Brooklynite but eternal Knick fan.

"A team to be proud of"

"Start believing brooklyn," pronounced Nets/arena CEO Brett Yormark. "You have a team to be proud of. Congrats. More to come."

We "have" a team. That's how it works: communities embrace sports entertainment corporations owned by billionaires, and get engaged with analyzing the sporting details--and get distracted from the rest.

"We'll get back to you on that affordable housing," riposted writer and (The Classical editor) David Roth.

Celebrities in the house

Along with Jay-Z and Beyonce, celebrities included Michael Strahan, Charlie Rose, Richard Gere and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who brought a host of city aides.

"What a game! With the great
 Bruce Ratner, headed to OT"

As noted below, the Mayor's office tweeted, unashamedly, a picture of the Mayor captioned "With the great Bruce Ratner."

The "great Bruce Ratner" who seems to be angling for bizarre tax discounts? Who said Atlantic Yards would be done in ten years, then said it was never supposed to be that time?

The rivalry is joined

As the Times (which teased the story with a front page photo, below) reported:
“Broook-lynnn.”

The chants signaled the start of a new rivalry and the official arrival of the Nets, who ground through four quarters and an overtime to take a 96-89 victory over the Knicks at Barclays Center, in the first N.B.A. game between two New York City teams.

Momentum swung wildly all night, every big play accompanied by a strange blend of competing chants and cheers from a divided crowd. But as the final minutes ticked down, the Nets found their footing and their fans got the final word, a prolonged and emphatic chant: “Broook-lynnn.”
Who's in charge?

When you have sports reporters telling most of the story, the sports story, naturally, takes precedence.

And they love that narrative.

" A rivalry grows in Brooklyn," declared the Post's Mike Vaccaro. "The city game belongs to the city once again. More, please."

The rivalry plumbed

A Times Sports article yesterday queried a rapper less celebrated than Jay-Z, in Fat Joe Has Undivided Attention on Knicks:
Q. What do you think of the Nets’ moving to Brooklyn?

A. I think it’s amazing. I like their whole vibe of what the Nets are putting together. It’s a real competitive team they are running out there. But I believe also that if you’re a true Knicks fan, you just don’t jump on their bandwagon. They’re the Brooklyn Nets, you know, but we’re the New York Knicks.

...Q. Can someone root hard for both teams? To just be a fan of New York sports?

A. No, man. That just ain’t right, in any sport. So you’re either a Giants fan or a Jets fan. You’re either a Brooklyn Nets fan, or you’re a New York Knicks fan.

Q. What do you think of the N.H.L.’s moving to Brooklyn?

A. It’s great, you know? Brooklyn’s like its own little state.
Times Sports columnist George Vecsey wrote, in yesterday's A Rivalry to Add to the City’s Rich History:
 It may take a while, but that’s all right. The 177 previous games between these franchises do not count. That was suburban stuff, with the Nets wandering from one leaky or dingy or soulless place to another, looking for urbanity. Now they have a home. What the relocated rivalry needs is history, and that takes time.
...The players are too cool and rich and interconnected to embody any upstairs-downstairs resentments; they will say what they think fans and the news media want to hear about the glory of a New York rivalry.
The future of this four-times-a-season derby ultimately depends on the quality of the teams — surprisingly high so far — and any outer-borough-vs.-Midtown resentments that kick in. Or maybe the personalities of the owners: the tall, voluble Russian owner of the Nets vs. the bearded recluse owner of the Knicks, polar opposites right there.
Don’t rush it. This is New York — Brooklyn and Manhattan. Listen for the beat. Beep-beep-beep. Something will happen.
I'd bet his next column will say that it did, and quickly.

The Times reported on the scene before the game:
There was, despite athletic disagreements, a pleasant hometown spirit at the game. Part of this was no doubt economic: As of Monday afternoon, courtside seats could be bought online for $1,500, and even the nosebleed seats in the highest upper decks were selling for more than $300.
Part, however, was that unique New York aggressiveness, a friendly form of fratricide that manages to be affable and belligerent at once. Case in point was the barbed exchange between Spike Lee, the filmmaker and Knicks fan, and Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president.
A Council Member's dilemma

The New York Observer explored the dilemma of Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, a lifelong Knicks fan:

“It’s something I’ve grappled with….It’s very, very tough, but I think I’m Brooklyn enough. Nobody can question my Brooklyn-ness, not even Marty Markowitz,” Mr. Williams said. “I’ve decided this fall to take my talents back to the Garden.”

Mr. Williams said the decision was a “struggle” for him because he is a proud, native Brooklynite.

“I’m Brooklyn. I’m Brooklyn. I’m born-and-bred diehard Brooklyn. I believe I reek, smell of Brooklyn wherever I go and I’m very proud of that. And I’m a basketball fan, I’ve been a Knicks fan for life, so it was a struggle,” said the Councilman with an audible sigh. “They’re [the Nets] doing their thing now. The colors look good, you know, you see the Brooklyn. It’s just tough and I’m sort of sad.”
Williams is known as one of the more politically conscious Council Members. Yet even he seems to have devoted more attention to hoops loyalty than, say, the details of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

---Updates below---

Dave D'Alessandro wrote in the Star-Ledger, Nets enjoy homecourt advantage in 96-89 overtime victory over Knicks:
For perhaps the first time since they cut the ribbon on this place, the show they put on here — a pristine, symmetrical and airy space — felt like it belonged here.
No, not so much inside the rusted bedpan that serves as its shell. We’re talking about the neighborhood in which this building resides — an environment that is filled with sirens and smoke, of clutter and clatter, of teeming sidewalks and gridlocked crosswalks.
Sometimes a basketball game comes out looking that way, and this was one of those times. Barclays felt like an arena that should host an overtime spectacle such as this — a game that stepped out of the schoolyard and came in out of the cold, something noisy and rugged, robust and imperfect; with just the kind of energy that contained a message from the Nets and Knicks that did not even need public expression.
To be continued, it said.
Patrick Clark wrote in the Observer, Hoops Hoops Hooray! Knicks, Nets Make New York a Basketball Town Again:
The Isiah Thomas era and the Knicks’ failed pursuit of LeBron James are old news. The Nets’ long struggle for big-city relevance got lost somewhere in New York harbor. When the teams squared off Monday night in Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center, the city had plenty to cheer about: real stars, the top two spots in the Atlantic Division standings and the eyes of millions upon us.
“Brooooooklyn,” they sang in the style of Biggie Smalls—the best rallying cry in American sports—when the Nets scored a bucket. “MVP!” they chanted when Knicks star Carmelo Anthony stepped to the free throw line. The crowd was so loud at times it was hard to believe that the 17,000-plus fans weren’t all cheering for the same side.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was among them, as were Michael Strahan, Charlie Rose, Richard Gere and, of course, Nets part-owner Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé. By our count, there were 100 members of the press on hand, including representatives from Chinese, German and Italian outlets. ESPN had 12 journalists at the game, in case you were wondering how the sports network gauged its importance.
In the end, Mr. Anthony missed a jumper that would have won the game in regulation, and the Nets outlasted the Knicks in overtime. It didn’t matter, much.
For a night, we could forget that the Knicks hadn’t won a title in 40 years, forget about Bernard King’s balky knees and Patrick Ewing’s shaky nerves, forget about anything having to do with Mr. Thomas.
New York was back where it belonged, as the basketball center of the universe.
He liked the arena:
I can report that a trip to the Nets’ new arena offers temptation enough for a lesser-willed fan to cross over: High ceilings (this is Brooklyn, so exposed ducts, natch) and open sightlines; a thoughtfully curated selection of local food (Spumoni Gardens for the natives, Fatty ’Cue for the arrivistes, Nathan’s for the tourists); instead of the light shows that often mar pregame introductions, a dignified volley of fireworks. Instead of stadium anthems, music that reminds you that Brooklyn belongs to the world. (We have to wonder, though, how big a cut the sound man is getting from Roc-A-Fella Records: with the exception of the periodic Biggie track, it was almost entirely Jay-Z’s catalog.)
Slick Rick played at halftime. He was pudgy, and some of the words were lost in the acoustics, but still, it was a classy nod to New York City’s hip-hop history, and something that’s hard to imagine going down at corporatized Madison Square Garden.
I can also report, happily, that on the evidence of one evening, the fan exodus isn’t happening. Led by Mr. Anthony—reinspired, the sportswriters say, and leaner at the waist after playing alongside Mr. James in the London Olympics—and Tyson Chandler, the biggest man on the court, if not tip to toe, then certainly by the size of his heart, the Knicks have the look of a title contender. Maybe not a favorite, but at least a plausible long shot. It’s not just the fans who think so: the team filled out its roster for this season with veterans like Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace, the type of already-rich players lured not by the biggest paycheck but by the best title shot.
So the Nets fans were more numerous, more conspicuous in their “Fan Since Day One” badges (oh really?) and black-and-white Brooklyn gear. Knicks fans were, if not louder, better at the business of being fans.
Columnist Harvey Araton wrote in the Times, More Than a Murmur, Not Yet a Roar:
All things considered, Nets Coach Avery Johnson’s hope for an 80-20 crowd split — the inverse of how it felt to him when the Knicks played New Jersey — was wishful thinking. The actual percentages were impossible to quantify, but put it this way: a split was win-win for the Nets.
Even taking into account their drastic improvement and current sharing with the Knicks of the divisional lead, the arena for now is the greater attraction, the borough’s pride, neighborhood opposition to its existence notwithstanding.
You see it in the young people climbing the stairs while exiting the subway, smartphone cameras poised to capture the immediate view of the much-discussed oculus, lighted theatrically under the darkened sky. Where once there was a hole in the ground there is now a destination, and that is the much bigger story than Brook Lopez’s development or Joe Johnson’s missing jump shot.
...When that happens — to anywhere near the extent of Monday night — we will know the Nets have arrived citywide. For now, they can have the satisfaction of landing the first blow and hearing Anthony, who spurned their advances for the Knicks, admit it might have worked out differently had Barclays already been built.
“Yeah, I have to say there would have been a much better chance,” he said on the way out Monday night for the commute home. “This is a beautiful place.”
Where once there was a hole in the ground... Not exactly.

Yahoo columnist Adrian Wojnarowsk wrote, in Nets find credibility and a home in Brooklyn with victory over Knicks:
The Barclays Center is a magnificent edifice, and the Nets business and marketing departments had pushed the NBA hard on delivering them the Knicks on the season's opening night in late October. The business side wanted a grand unveiling, a New York happening and yet privately the front office and coaching staffs never wanted to open with the Knicks. The basketball staff wanted time to build toward a meeting with New York, wanted to mold its team, its chemistry and gather momentum on the way to this game. 
In New York magazine, Will Leitch wrote, in Notes and Observations on the First Knicks-Nets Barclays Battle:
• This is being billed as “the Nets are taking over the city!” this morning, but let’s not get carried away. It's one of the signature games at Barclays Center so far this season, with the Nets poised to make as big a statement as they can make, and this crowd was honestly 50-50 throughout. It’s rare in sports that you find a crowd that’s essentially split down the middle — the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville comes to mind (though Georgia tends to have the slight edge there), or the Illinois-Missouri basketball game before Christmas in St. Louis — but that’s what this one was. It was legitimately thrilling to witness: Shots from both sides brought roars from the crowd, a rarity in sports.
...• Before the game, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he had never been to Brooklyn before. This struck many as surprising, but it shouldn’t be. Athletes and coaches do so much traveling that any sort of side trip to a borough when they have no need to is simply a waste of time. When we interviewed Nets GM Billy King in Brooklyn around November 2011, he admitted it was only the third or fourth time he’d ever been in Brooklyn either. Athletes don’t bother with places that their drivers don’t take them directly, for a specific purpose. We bet most Knicks haven’t been anywhere other than the Garden, the Upper East Side, and White Plains in months.
• For that matter: Don’t think many Nets players, coaches, and staff are hitting up Mo’s Fort Greene either. They get the hell out of dodge, too. By the looks of all the rows of liveries and limos lined up on Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues afterward, they’re far from the only ones.
Grantland's Ben Detrick wrote We Went There: The Battle for New York:
Even in a showdown billed as the "Battle for New York" or the “Clash of the Boroughs” or “A Bunch of Professional Athletes Who Live in Westchester Playing for Franchises Across the Bridge From Each Other,” most Nets fans aren't emotionally invested enough to curse at every miss. When someone in the Barclays Center stands shouts passionate words, a fair assumption is that they're one of Mirza Teletovic's local relatives from Little Sarajevo.
To compensate for the lack of crowd noise, the public address system blares a ceaseless mix of hip-hop instrumentals and vocal snippets. It's technically the best music in any sports arena — where else can you hear Bonecrusher's "Never Scared" and Biggie's "N----s Bleed?" — but there's a zombifying oversaturation effect. When Humphries yoked up Tyson Chandler for a jump ball in the third quarter, cheers for the energetic defensive effort were instantly smothered by a 30-second megamix of Kris Kross and Busta Rhymes. Later, during the taut fourth quarter, a growing chant of "D-Fence" was drowned out by Biggie's "The What." Let the people find their voice, man.
Together, the frenetic playlist and oxygen-consuming presence of Jay-Z make it appear as if the Nets are presenting themselves as the OFFICIAL HIP-HOP BASKETBALL TEAM. It feels very '90s, and not in the dope vintage Coogi sweater way (on the upside, the girl in a bikini top who was giving out free temporary Nets tattoos looked a lot like Foxy Brown).