Skip to main content

Hindy: support the Two Trees Domino plan because (among other things) Barclays arena is "wonderful addition" (but what about the numbers?)

Brooklyn Brewery co-founder Steve Hindy has an op-ed in Crain's New York business suggesting Brooklyn would hit new heights with Domino Sugar development: Plans by SHoP architects and Field Operations would create a new vision.

He writes:
The City Planning Commission is now weighing Jed Walentas' proposal for a bold redo of the plan to develop the Domino Sugar factory site in Williamsburg with an exciting series of buildings that would create a new vision of a 21st-century Brooklyn.
Walentas' vision changes the Domino plan from a residential development to a mixed-use development, making space for the many tech and culinary startups that are clamoring for more commercial and industrial space in the city. That means jobs as well as affordable housing.
By going higher, it opens up much more space for the people of Williamsburg, one of the most park-starved neighborhoods in the city 
The Walentas plan, embraced by many critics, offers some interesting and potentially valuable changes: new offices and more open space. Whether it would contain the same amount of affordable housing, and whether it would provide more benefit for the developer, require more analysis than Hindy provides.

It's not just a question of design, and of jobs. It's an overall business decision.

Looking at the numbers

Brian Paul, a producer of The Domino Effect documentary, wrote last month in response to some of the enthusiasm:
As a planner and a resident of the area, I am increasingly dismayed with each new celebratory article on Two Trees’ plan that fails to properly consider the impact of extreme density or consider any kind of alternative to Battery Park City-style residential tower development. Commentators that are usually intelligent are allowing themselves to be boxed into Two Trees’ public relations framework of this project as a triumphant improvement on the “bland” poorly designed developments that have been built (or are soon to be built) elsewhere on the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront.
He warned that the new project is a way to leverage more development rights:
Two Trees is effectively using the 2010 CPC zoning as a gun to the community’s head – “We already have the right to build 3 million square feet. Give us 400,000 more square feet and we’ll do some things you like – adding mixed-use and local retail – or else we will just build the CPC plan or sell it to someone who will.”
He tries to parse the numbers:
So we see that a project of much less overwhelming density and much greater public benefit is indeed financially feasible and an extremely profitable long term investment for Two Trees. Just less profitable than the proposed development.
Of course Two Trees does not need to build so big to turn a healthy profit. And of course Two Trees could provide more public benefit. But in the public-private partnership model we’ve seen on the waterfront and elsewhere in the City under the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg, the public is always the junior partner and the greater public good is constantly sacrificed for the developer’s profits.
The AY mention

Hindy invokes Atlantic Yards in his conclusion:
Bruce Ratner was the last developer to try to sell Brooklyn a new vision. His Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards faded after opponents fought it from every possible angle for almost a decade. SHoP's Barclays Arena is a wonderful addition to downtown Brooklyn. Most arenas and stadiums around the country look like airplane hangars with signs. I hope the Planning Commission allows the Domino project to proceed. Brooklyn is ready to soar.
That's a trifle simplistic.

Atlantic Yards still offers a cautionary tale. Gehry's arena was unbuildable, given the recession and the impossibility of constructing four towers at the same time.

As for the "wonderful addition," well, remember that Bruce Ratner would likely have produced a "hangar" had the design not leaked to Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff. Ratner then hired SHoP to improve the arena significantly.

But what Hindy doesn't acknowledge is that Atlantic Yards was sold to the public as a ten-year project, but Ratner later said that was never the timetable. It wasn't the fault of his opponents. It was his business plan.

Is the Domino business plan also a bait-and-switch? Based on the Atlantic Yards record, we can hardly be sure that the "exciting series" of buildings devised by architects will be built as promised.

Or can the city lock in the benefits and timetable that are in the project that it approves? Because it will, of course, get approved. Maybe all parties ought to be reading Gib Veconi on accountability.

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…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …