Skip to main content

What is he, chopped liver? Bill de Blasio's Atlantic Yards problem

Update: see Capital NY's coverage, Bill de Blasio, development pragmatist.

Now that Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has vaulted to the top of the mayoral polls, there's been a spike of interest in examining his record.

So I got a couple of queries yesterday about his role boosting but not overseeing Atlantic Yards, about which I've written at length. My analysis is summarized/linked here, and I'm sure others will pursue this further.

But here are a couple of recent money quotes regarding Atlantic Yards:
  • "I think government has to hold the developer's feet to the fire to get it done, and on a real timeline." 
  • "Government I don't think has done a very good job of following through on that goal, and I think the next mayor has to do that very aggressively."
What is de Blasio, chopped liver?

He's government too, and he has avoided every opportunity, for example, to criticize developer Forest City Ratner for failing to hire the Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) or to raise questions about the project's delayed timeline or the failure to meet the affordable housing pledge.

Note: I wouldn't say that other leading candidates, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Comptroller Bill Thompson, have a better record on Atlantic Yards or, for that matter, the real estate industry.

They never professed much desire to understand and oversee the project, so, because of such low expectations, they're just a quantum less slippery than de Blasio. (John Liu and Sal Albanese are toughest on Atlantic Yards.)
In Newsweek/The Daily Beast,  David Freedlander quoted an unaffiliated Democratic operative, who said de Blasio "is much closer to Machiavelli than to Marx."

de Blasio's big speech: what's missing

Here's an excerpt from de Blasio's 7/31/12 speech on economic growth:
When I looked at Atlantic Yards, I saw all the things my neighbors did: the traffic, the big shadows cast by buildings, the crowds, the disruption during and after construction. I didn’t dismiss those concerns at the time and I don’t dismiss them now. But I also saw the chance to build a staggering amount of affordable housing and put thousands of people to work. As an elected official representing neighborhoods where the cost of housing was driving families out, where the loss of jobs in warehousing and the trades had cost people their livelihoods, I saw a choice—to build, or not to build; to grow or not to grow. And as an act of economic equity and opportunity, there was no question in my mind about the right thing to do. When it came time to make an up or down decision, I supported the project—including its use of eminent domain. It did not make it easy to walk down Seventh Avenue in Park Slope; the critics were many and they were vocal. I also emphasize they were usually very well-intentioned. But when it came to the criteria that mattered above all others—good jobs and affordable housing—it was clear that Atlantic Yards would help stanch the bleeding in an area facing huge problems of affordability.
But the critique of Atlantic Yards was not just impacts vs. benefits. It was about good government vs. sweetheart deals.

It's that the benefits, like the commitments purportedly "guaranteed" by the CBA, were in doubt, part of a major p.r. campaign by the developer and its allies, and a process with little accountability then and now.

Does de Blasio know that even the New York Times, not known for consistently skeptical coverage of Atlantic Yards, last September described developer Bruce Ratner as having a "reputation for promising anything to get a deal, only to renegotiate relentlessly for more favorable terms"?

Oh, Ratner in June 2011 hosted a birthday party/fund-raiser for de Blasio. FCR construction chief Bob Sanna, as intermediary has raised a total of $13,600 for de Blasio. Maybe de Blasio knows. But with that kind of contribution, and support from groups like ACORN (and its successors) that signed the affordable housing deal with developer Ratner, he knows which side he's on.

Comments

  1. Anonymous7:33 AM

    I don't understand the ACORN reference here. What's the connection between that now-defunct group and developers like Ratner?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry for the shorthand. NY ACORN was Ratner's partner on the Atlantic Yards affordable housing, and pledged to support the project in exchange for Ratner's affordable housing pledge (which has not exactly been followed).

      Delete
    2. Also, one of Bill de Blasio's supporters, Scott Levenson, was the former spokesman for ACORN. See also : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UC-g7XAaIuM

      Delete
  2. Anonymous9:58 AM

    "Leading candidates" ??? that is the same spin they used to ram the Yards down our throats.

    Voting Liu and volunteering for him too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leading in the polls. But yes, John Liu and Sal Albanese are toughest on Atlantic Yards.

      Delete
  3. I'm a supporter of DeBlasio because he is the most reliably progressive candidate, by far.

    But your criticism is well directed, and I hope he listens to it.

    His record isn't perfect, but he is the candidate most likely to stand up to the developers and other corporate interests who have been sucking our city dry for decades.

    And it is abundantly clear that when he is elected, he will not be beholden to the corporate establishment which has been trying to defeat him, but to the people. And he knows that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Daniel Goldstein3:17 PM

    Atlantic Yards is a great litmus test, especially for self-proclaimed "progressive" pols. And Mr. deBlasio fails the test even worse than the rest of the bunch.Not once has he railed against the sweetheart deal, the complete override of the city charter and zoning to get the project done. Not once has he tried to "hold the developer's feet to the fire." Not once did he stand up for those who would be displaced by a highly questionable use of eminent domain. And not once has he admitted that the project and the developer's PR job on jobs and affordable housing has failed miserably. And this is in his backyard, unlike the other candidates.

    Process matters. It doesn't seem to have mattered to Mr. deBlasio. Machiavelli indeed...except the ends have not even justified the means in the case of AY.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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…

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…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

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…