Skip to main content

Down the rabbit hole: report suggests city grant for Atlantic Yards went to ESDC at Forest City's office address

A recent report from advocates critical of New York State's economic development policies leads down the rabbit hole to Atlantic Yards, where city documents are dismayingly opaque.

Those documents inadequately reference the extent of state subsidies for the project, and somehow place the Empire State Development Corporation at an address for Forest City Ratner.

What does this mean? At the least, such sloppy reporting makes oversight more difficult.

A critical report

A 5/29/13 article from the Syracuse Post-Standard, New York's economic development 'gamble' costs $7 billion a year, report says, laid out the charges:
New York spends $7 billion annually on dozens of economic development programs, but it has no way of knowing whether it's getting its money's worth, according to a report [The $7,000,000 Wager, bottom] by a coalition of public policy experts, government watchdogs, labor unions and community organizations.
The Alliance for a Greater New York [ALIGN] said few of the state's programs require recipients of subsidies to set performance goals such as job creation. It said few require project-specific reporting or monitor the success of projects and that few allow for adequate public review or recourse when corporations fail to live up to their agreements.
"Our findings show that New York's current spending on economic development is more of a gamble than an investment," the group said Wednesday.
"This opaque and unaccountable system makes it impossible for the public or policymakers to determine if our $7 billion investment is working for New York," said the group, which is based in New York City but has affiliates across the state.
The alliance called on the state to adopt performance standards to evaluate the success of spending in relation to key goals, including job creation.
It also recommended that the state require companies to give back the subsidies they receive if they fail to meet their promised job creation goals.
The spending estimate is based on annual reports and audits of various state economic development programs and agencies, but, as I discovered, those reports are not so easy to understand.

The state responds

A 5/30/13 follow-up by the Gannett chain cited the report in the context of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's controversial proposal for tax-free zones for businesses that on state college campuses.

The state responded:
The largest program for state incentives is through the Empire State Development Corp., the state’s economic development arm. It doled out more than $1 billion in tax breaks and grants in 2011, the report said.
...Ken Adams, president and CEO of Empire State Development, said there is a “disconnect between this report –- the findings of which are based on some outdated and inaccurate data -- and today’s reality.”
“The report advocates for transparency and accountability–laudable goals and also hallmarks of this administration,” Adams said in a statement. “At Empire State Development, the state’s lead economic development agency, those standards are already in place: from open-to-the-public board meetings to mandated project reporting to pay-for-performance incentives and claw-back provisions."
From the report: an Atlantic Yards mention

The ESDC was the number one recipient in 2012 of a grant from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), as suggested in the screenshot below, from p. 23 of the report (bottom):


This is rather confusing, because 1) that's not the address of the ESDC and 2) no such grant was announced in 2012, to my knowledge.

Down the rabbit hole

I went to the NYCEDC's web site to see if I could find supporting documents.
In its Public Authorities Reporting Information System (PARIS) report for FY 2011, there's no mention of any grant to the Empire State Development.

In the FY 2012 PARIS report, there is a $20,444,233 grant to the Empire State Development Corporation.

It's dated 9/12/07.

This is apparently part of the city's $179 million in subsidies for both land acquisition and infrastructure costs related to Atlantic Yards.

However, it's unclear why 1) there's no mention of the grant, in whole or in part, in the earlier report, given that the date is 2007, and 2) the grant is not reported in full.

Perhaps only this portion of the subsidy was delivered in 2012.

Moreover, it's absolutely bizarre that the address for the ESDC is reported at 752 Pacific Street. That building was long owned by Henry Weinstein, who lost the property in 2010 to ESDC via eminent domain after a convoluted battle with his tenant.

But ESDC never operated an office there. Forest City Ratner has offices there, including its Community Liaison Office, as indicated in the screenshot at right.

And, of course, Forest City was ultimately the recipient or beneficiary of the government funds. (I queried NYCEDC and ESDC but didn't get a response.)

More NYCEDC confusion

The NYCEDC PARIS reports are not easy to understand. Below are just a few random examples.

In the report for FY 2011, which ended 6/30/11, there's an $11.7 million grant dated 4/30/04 to the American Museum of the Moving Image. In the FY 2012 report, there's a $4 million grant dated 4/30/04 to the American Museum of the Moving Image.

There's no indication why the grants differ, unless different amounts were delivered in successive years.

Secondarily, in the FY 2011 report, there's a $3.95 million grant issued 7/19/10 to the Apollo Theater Foundation. In the FY 2012 report, however, there's no mention of that grant, but there is mention of an earlier 6/15/10 grant worth nearly $410,000. It seems odd that the earlier grant would be delivered later.

2011 report





2012 report







ff

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

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…