Monday, June 17, 2013

Nassau Coliseum battle: Ratner's iconic pitch; questions unanswered; a clash over Atlantic Yards delays; D'Amato neutralized

"Bruce Ratner and Partners will create a Nassau Like Never Before," according to a pitch video captured in the screenshot at right.

The images of Yankee Stadium, Cowboys Stadium, and the Barclays Center are supposed to suggest iconic buildings.

However, there's another way to look at it: each involved a significant commitment of public resources, including parkland (Yankee Stadium) and local/federal tax breaks, and direct subsidies.

With Nassau County executive Ed Mangano set to choose a developer to renovate and downsize the Coliseum by mid-July, both of the two (of four) perceived front-runners, the Ratner partnership and the one led by Madison Square Garden, have produced elaborate video (Ratner, MSG) advertisements. (Screenshot of MSG ad at left.)

There's a Brooklyn-ish theme to the Ratner pitch, at least according to Newsday's report on the campaign:
Stephen Mosher, a professor of sports management and the media at Ithaca College, said the ads target different demographics. Ratner is "attempting to appeal to a younger, more transient demographic," while MSG "is attempting to engage the residents of Nassau County who actually live there and have their roots there," he said.
The need for skepticism

In neither case, however, have the real financial questions been clarified: how much public assistance do the developers hope to claim, and how much would the county gain?

Also, observed local columnist Michael Miller, "Whatever does happen with the Coliseum, we need to be healthily skeptical about any revenue projections."

Moreover, as Newsday reported yesterday, it's an open question as to whether any version of a revamped Coliseum that lacks a professional sports team could be a success. As one commenter noted, however, the Izod Center in New Jersey is still a healthy concert venue.

Note one passage from the article that drew scorn from commenters:
Planners, sports and entertainment experts and local officials agree that redevelopment of the 77-acre Coliseum site is essential to the region's future, particularly to attracting young families to settle on Long Island.
Home field advantage?

From the Blumenfeld web site
Both parties are running ads in Newsday, which is of course owned by Cablevision, also owned by the MSG owners, who thus have a home field advantage in maintaining favor with local politicians. (The MSG owners, the Dolans, also own News12, the main TV news outlet.)

On the other hand, Ratner has already advised Mangano on modernizing and shrinking the 16,000-seat capacity of Coliseum. I wrote last month that it's hard to doubt he has the inside track--or, maybe, just an edge of sorts.

A longer-shot contender, Edward Blumenfeld, has been running a radio ad, Newsday reported, that tout his plan to build a new arena, rather than renovate the existing one, and that "isn't paid for by me, the taxpayer," according to a narrator.

The Ratner ad



The malleable Ratner pitch

An article published recently in the Long Island Herald was headlined Bruce Ratner: ‘We’re good at getting it done’ and contained this paragraph:
The tour began in the Daily News Plaza in front of the arena, a 39,000-square-foot space featuring an entrance to the nearest subway station. “Almost all great buildings in the world have plazas that really define them,” said Ratner. “You don’t want to drive up and feel like you’re going to an ordinary place. You want to make it special.”
That sounds convincing, except the Brooklyn arena was never supposed to have a plaza.

The article closed:
Sitting inside a board room at the Barclays Center, Ratner ended the tour by reflecting on his track record in development, emphasizing his ability at completing projects. “We’re good at getting it done,” he said. “In today’s world you need to create a brand. You need to create buzz and marketing. We’re really good at that.”
Ratner is really good at creating buzz, especially when his journalistic interlocutors have no skepticism about statements like "We're good at getting it done." Indeed, Ratner foe Daniel Goldstein posted a skeptical comment:
Really? Atlantic Yards is supposed to be an arena and 15 towers all built w/in ten years. What had Forest City Ratner gotten done in 3 years? An arena and.....??
If he means good at getting bait and switches done, then yes, certainly.
An AY debate

While Ratner--who was just named chairman-elect of the Museum of Jewish Heritage--stresses  Barclays Center success, an MSG ally points to the continued frustration with the overall Atlantic Yards project.

On 6/5/13, the New York Post reported LI big backs MSG Coliseum plan, tells Ratner... FUHGEDDABOUDIT!:
Madison Square Garden’s bid to redevelop Nassau Coliseum got supercharged after a heavyweight Long Island developer joined forces with James Dolan, The Post has learned.
Scott Rechler’s RXR Realty not only pumped megabucks into MSG’s plan, but trashed a rival bid by Barclays Center.
The CEO of Long Island’s largest realty company claims the proposal by Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner and a star-studded team that also includes rap mogul Jay-Z, is more “smoke and mirrors” than substance — and could leave the area dormant like much of Ratner’s 22-acre Atlantic Yards project footprint in Brooklyn is today.
In the article, Rechler said Ratner's plan “only guarantees” $89 million for the arena, with “no timeline” for the $140 million of additional construction.

Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, however, "said the group would build the entire project simultaneously— 'if that’s what they want.' Yormark also said the Brooklyn comparison is 'unfair' because Atlantic Yards was held up by a once-in-a-generation credit crunch."

Of course Ratner said in September 2010 that the much-promised ten-year timeline was "never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in."

The parties also disagree on whether MSG has territorial rights to deny Ratner the opportunity to have the Islanders, after the move to Brooklyn, to play six games a year in the renovated Coliseum.

What's best for the people?

Newsday quoted Ratner as fighting back against MSG: "But even if they could . . . why would anybody deny the people of Long Island the right to see a team?" Ratner said. "I don't think they would do that. At the end of the day, you have to do what's right for the people of Nassau, Suffolk. I think they would do the right thing, but they don't really have the right to do that anyhow."

Of course, given that Ratner lured the team to Brooklyn from the suburban counties, it's hard to say he cares more than anyone else.

D'Amato neutralized

Newsday reported 5/13/13 that the area's most powerful lobbyist is sitting this one out:
Long Island’s largest lobbying firm is taking a seat on the sidelines in the competition to renovate the Nassau Coliseum and its surrounding property.
Former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato’s firm, Park Strategies, has told the two largest bidders — Madison Square Garden and Forest City Ratner — that they will not represent either firm, said company spokeswoman Dana Sanneman.
Park Strategies, with $3.7 million in revenue in 2012 — eighth-most in the state — represents both MSG and Ratner on unrelated matters, Sanneman said.
Newsday noted that Islanders owner Charles Wang once clashed with D’Amato after denying his brother a piece of the planned (but shelved) Lighthouse Project. (D’Amato denied asking Wang to bring his brother on board.)

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