Skip to main content

LIU commencement May 16 at Barclays Center; Ratner, Markowitz to be honored (another round of reciprocal favors?)

Long Island University (LIU) next week will hold the first commencement ceremony ever at the Barclays Center and--guess what, arena developer Bruce Ratner and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz are being honored, along with retiring LIU President David J. Steinberg.

Yes, it makes sense that LIU, just up Flatbush Avenue, might want to use the arena for commencement, but it also looks like another round of friendly dealing: LIU has fervently supported the Atlantic Yards project during legal battles and the university, in turn, has gained by playing basketball games on the prominent Barclays Center stage.

LIU did not respond to my query about whether they were getting free or discounted use of the arena.

The ceremony, which will bring nearly 2500 graduates to residential Dean Street at 8:30 am on May 16, was not announced in the May arena event calendar, which was subject to change.

Ratner, Markowitz "help enrich lives"

According to an LIU press release:
Provost [Gale Stevens] Haynes noted that this year’s other award recipients, through their commitment to excellence, also have helped enrich the lives of millions of individuals.
Mr. Ratner, who has led FCRC to prominence as one of the nation’s foremost urban real estate developers, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Mr. Ratner, a 1967 cum laude graduate of Harvard University and a 1970 graduate of Columbia University Law School, is a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets, and his company successfully built the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the centerpiece of the $3.5 billion [actually $4.9B] Atlantic Yards complex. FCRC owns and operates 11 million square-feet of property in the New York area, including the MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn; the New York Times Building; and the Frank Gehry-designed 8 Spruce Street in Manhattan, which is the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere.
Mr. Markowitz — the political sparkplug and tireless advocate for Brooklyn’s economic, social and cultural interests — will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Service. Elected Borough President in 2001, Markowitz is serving his third term in office. During three decades of public service, Mr. Markowitz has enacted programs to boost pride within the Brooklyn community, improve the health of local residents, promote tourism in the borough and empower the area’s young people.
Scratching each other's bacl: LIU's support for Atlantic Yardsk

On 3/3/11, I wrote about a curious affidavit from Provost Haynes, which accompanied a motion from the (Ratner-influenced) Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) to file a "friend of the court" brief in the then-pending Atlantic Yards court case, regarding the impacts of and the need for the Empire State Development Corporation study a delayed timetable.

The DBP supported Forest City Ratner and the state, but the defendants lost the case, and the court ordered a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement.

The case, as well as the Atlantic Yards project as a whole, could have been a teachable moment, but instead Haynes emerged seemingly challenging Markowitz as the project's most fervent cheerleader. Among her quotes:
The students and faculty at LIU-Brooklyn are very supportive of the Atlantic Yards Redevelopment Project. The advantages of the Project are abundant.
...Aside from breathing new life into Downtown Brooklyn, our students have a great many needs. The Project would fulfill some of those needs by augmenting our academic programs, and by offering housing, jobs, and transit and infrastructure improvements to our students, who live, work, study and travel in Downtown Brooklyn daily.
...The unemployment and poverty across our student body is real. The Project represents not only an investment in Downtown Brooklyn, but an investment in our students. The creation of thousands of new jobs means more career options for local residents, including our students, while in school and after graduation.
...The new affordable housing related to the Project would provide additional opportunities for our students to reside closer to the school. For many of our students, the new housing will offer an opportunity to move out of inferior or over-crowded housing.
Despite all the linkages, real and fantasy (that affordable housing won't help many LIU students, if any), it likely comes down to the fact that LIU has gotten to play basketball at the Barclays Center and thus established its brand (even though it wasn't selling out its own athletic facility for its game against local rival St. Francis and its commuter students aren't bursting with school spirit).

Haynes even suggested that "[a]nything that would delay or stop this [project] advancement would have a devastating impact on the University and many of our future planning goals."

Had she said anything about Ratner's statement a few months earlier that the ten-year project timetable so long used by project supporters "was never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in”? Nope.

The March 2012 partnership announcement

As I reported 3/14/12, the arena announced Barclays Center Forms Multifaceted Partnership With LIU Brooklyn:
BROOKLYN – Located just three blocks apart on Flatbush Avenue, Barclays Center and Long Island University Brooklyn have formed a unique multifaceted partnership, which includes athletics, education, community, and brand-building platforms.
Barclays Center, the world-class sports and entertainment venue scheduled to open on September 28, will be the home away from home for LIU’s men’s basketball team. The Blackbirds, who have advanced to the Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship for the second consecutive year in which they will face Michigan State on Friday, will play a minimum of four home games each season at Barclays Center during the length of the agreement. LIU is already confirmed to participate in the Barclays Center Classic, presented by Sheets™ Brand Energy Strips, on November 9 and the BROOKLYN HOOPS™ Holiday Invitational on Dec. 22.
As part of the educational component of the alliance, Barclays Center will annually host five one-hour bi-weekly classes for students in LIU sports journalism/management classes. The classes will include Barclays Center and Nets Basketball executives serving as guest lecturers. In addition, at least five LIU students will annually receive internships with Barclays Center or Nets Basketball.
Educating more than 11,000 students annually at its Brooklyn campus, LIU will hold commencement exercises in Barclays Center.
In conjunction with Barclays Center’s plans to be actively involved in public service throughout the borough, LIU will serve as the presenting partner of the Barclays Center Community Platform. Through this involvement, LIU will receive branding when the Community Platform is promoted during Barclays Center events via signage or through www.barclayscenter.com, radio, or print.
In addition, LIU students, staff, and faculty will receive discounts on tickets to select Barclays Center events.
How much will commencement cost?

In 2006, a report to the Empire State Development Corporation from KPMG, which analyzed some financial protections related to the project, stated:
However, the base rental rate for other events (e.g., graduations) of $62,000 plus the estimated $41,000 in event-related expenses appears to be high. Although these rates could change subject to actual negotiation with prospective users, it is likely that these rates need to be further reduced to accommodate various civic groups that cannot afford "market" rental rates, particularly given the competitiveness of the market.
Forest City later said those numbers were overblown.

I asked LIU yesterday if the arena was donated--as it was for Markowitz's State of the Borough Address last month--and what they paid. I didn't hear back.

The schedule in Brooklyn
  • 8:30 a.m. Graduates arrive enrobed at the EmblemHealth Dean Street Entry (southeast corner of the arena on Dean Street)
  • 9:00 a.m. Guests enter through the GEICO Main Entry & Barclays Center Box Office (corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues)
  • 9:30 a.m. Student Procession
  • 9:45 a.m. Faculty Procession
  • 10:30 a.m. Ceremony Begins
  • approx. 12:00 p.m. Recessional

A not-quite unified LIU

According to a Message from the President, the original plan was to have all four LIU campuses, including LIU Post (formerly C.W. Post) in Brookville on the north shore of Long Island, to join their formerly separate ceremonies at the arena.

However, only three--LIU Brooklyn, Pharmacy (also in Brooklyn), and Hudson (graduate programs in Rockland and Westchester Counties)--will meet at the arena, while LIU Post will have its commencement today on the campus Great Lawn. Steinberg wrote:
The opening of Barclays Center offered LIU an opportunity to come together for the first time to hold a grand, unified commencement, an embracive ritual showcasing the scope and dynamism of our University. The facility is dramatic, indoors, beautiful, and conveniently located. It speaks of the renaissance not only of Brooklyn but also of all of Long Island.
Over the past several weeks it has become clear that the notion of participating in a common ceremony has presented a host of problems for some members of the LIU Post community. Students have wondered about transportation to Barclays. Others were concerned that each student would receive just two guest tickets until we could see how many students would be marching. Additionally, the length of time between the last day of finals and the ceremony presented logistical problems, especially for those who live far from campus. Equally important, many expressed a sense of loss, fearing that the LIU Post identity would be swallowed up in the larger event, however grand. It seems that the tent on the Great Lawn has become a cherished symbol of campus identity.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…