|FCR's Jim Stuckey talks timeline. See below.|
That means the reported prediction by the Greenland Group, the expected new Chinese investors, that it would take eight years to finish a project that has a 25-year outside date should be taken with a major grain of salt.
(Crain's went the opposite direction and, summarizing a thinly-sourced Wall Street Journal article, declared Schedule set for Atlantic Yards. )
Could somehow Mayor-in-waiting Bill de Blasio have privately pledged he will "get the housing done" by tossing bushels of additional subsidies toward developer Forest City Ratner and its Chinese government partners? And could the modular factory, which is supposed to take 18 months to turn out a building, go full-stop, 24/7?
You never know, but, remember, as then-CEO of Forest City Enterprises (parent of Forest City Ratner) Chuck Ratner famously said in March 2007, "We are terrible, and we’ve been a developer for 50 years, on these big multi-use, public private urban developments, to be able to predict when it will go from idea to reality. All we know is that if we pick the right place and we’re in with the right people, that over time we’re going to create tremendous value."
There's even more reason for skepticism.
The ten-year timetable
Ten years was long used as the Atlantic Yards timetable. Despite the evident troubles in the national economy, Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner in May 2008 wrote, "We anticipate finishing all of Atlantic Yards by 2018."
More than two years later, he said never mind. WNYC in September 2010 published Ratner Abandons 10-Year Timeline for Atlantic Yards. The ten-year timeline, the CEO said, "was really only an analysis as to what the most serious impacts [would be], if all the other planned development in downtown Brooklyn happened right away. It was never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in.”
“I would say it's really market-dependent as to when it will really be completed,” Ratner added. WNYC's Matthew Schuerman helpfully pointed out that the ten-year timeline was used to calculate project benefits and justify subsidies.
Ratner, May 2005
As Atlantic Yards faced public approval, Ratner and his lieutenants were uniformly optimistic about the timeline, such as at a 5/19/05 press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall announcing the affordable housing Memorandum of Understanding.
Ratner was asked about "the order of completion requirements" for the housing, and dodged the question of whether there was any requirement. (There could not have been a required timeline: Ratner didn't even own the land needed for the project, including Vanderbilt Yard development rights.)
Still, he sounded confident. "Actually as we build, we’ll probably start this project about a year from September [thus September 2006]," Ratner responded. "At that time, we’ll be building the arena and housing units at the same time. So over a period of, let’s say, the completion of first housing units are '08, and it will take probably another five or six years to complete all the housing.”
Another five or six years after the arena? Oh.
Stuckey's claim of less than ten years
Ratner was actually less misleading than his then-deputy, Jim Stuckey, responding to a reporter's question after an October 2004 press conference at the House of the Lord Church, when the Rev. Herbert Daughtry announced his support for the project.
Stuckey was asked how long the arena would take.
"I think the approvals and design of the arena will go on separate tracks but simultaneous tracks," Stuckey replied. "...what Bruce [Ratner] was saying, if everything comes together correctly, then sometime around early '06, January of '06, we should be in a position where we can break ground on the arena... it takes 18-24 months [to finish] the arena."
What about the rest of the project?
"The program that we’ve outlined is basically a ten-year program”--Stuckey touched his face in a tell I've excerpted into a GIF (right)--”we hope to do better than that, but we’ve conservatively said: to do the entire program, all of the housing, all of the office, is roughly a ten-year program.”
By the way, that's uber-flack Joe DePlasco, chewing gum, in the final frames of the video above.