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Showing posts from February, 2013

Crain's: arena union decertification vote fails

Crain's NY Business, in Barclays workers fail to break from union, reports that "conversion crew" voted 49-6 to de-certify 32BJ in an attempt to join the Carpenters Union, but they didn't have 66 votes, or most of  the 131 total workers.

Did the workers stay home, as 32BJ says, or are there not actually 131 conversion crew employees, as the Carpenters say.

The article provides details not in the previous Daily News coverage: while Madison Square Garden does have highly-paid full-timers, "its 80 part-timers start at $11 an hour and top out at $18," Crain's says, quoting 32BJ, while all Barclays workers start "at $14 an hour, but can work their way up to $20 an hour and have a way to obtain benefits and a path to full-time work." (This is confusing: previous reportage said all MSG workers are full time.)

Bottom line, according to one Barclays worker, is " I can't live on $14 an hour, and I only get work one or two days a month, but can&…

Daily News: arena conversion workers seek to de-certify union, complain about part-time status, say MSG pay is better

The comparison between the Barclays Center and Cablevision's Madison Square Garden--already more complicated than Public Advocate Bill de Blasio thinks--just got a little more complicated as the Daily News reports, 120 Barclays Center workers plan vote to stop paying dues to their union, SEIU 32BJ, the first step in expected move to de-certify.

The Barclays Center has 120 workers--all part-time--whose job it is to convert the arena from a basketball court to concert hall to other functions. They get only $14/hour and, according to the Daily News, must work some four years before they can get health benefits.

By contrast, Madison Square Garden employes six to 15 full-time carpenters--not sure why this number is so vague--and 20 to 40 part-timers. The full-timers earn $46/hour. It's not clear what the part-timers earn. But the difference is enough to raise hackles. The Daily News reports:
As a result, the workers plan to vote Wednesday to stop paying dues to their union, SEIU 32…

BrooklynSpeaks: study ten-year Atlantic Yards timetable, not 25 years

A press release from BrooklynSpeaks, Community leaders and elected officials demand ESDC study restoring Atlantic Yards’ original 10-year construction schedule:
In advance of a public hearing on a draft scope of work for a court-ordered environmental review of 2009 changes to the Atlantic Yards project which extended its construction from ten to twenty-five years, community leaders and elected officials expressed dismay that the draft scope contains no analysis of alternatives that would enable the project to be completed in its original ten-year time frame.
A group of BrooklynSpeaks sponsors, local residents and elected officials filed suit in November of 2009, charging that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) approved Atlantic Yards’ 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) without sufficient study of the effects of a 25-year construction period on surrounding communities. In July 2011, State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman ruled that ESDC’s approval of the 2009 MG…

Barclays Center vs. MSG, the All-Star Game, and de Blasio's web of allegiances (and selective advocacy)

An article in this week's Crain's New York Business is headlined Garden CEO Hank Ratner dismisses new crosstown rival: He isn't concerned about competition from the Barclays Center.

Ratner, chief executive of Madison Square Garden Co. since it spun off from Cablevision in 2010, is  supervising the arena's $980 million renovation. He was less dismissive than the headline suggested, calling "Barclays Center is a good thing... Our biggest issue is there's only 365 days in the year and we cannot book everything that we'd like to book."

Told that Barclays, with basketball, concerts and soon hockey, looks like a rival, he responded:
I don't think anybody sees it that way. I'm surprised that you would frame the question that way unless you were just trying to be provocative. The Garden is the Garden, and it's been here since 1879. It sits on top of the busiest transportation hub in New York. It's where people and performers go for big shows. …

Elected officials will ask DOT to ensure safety at Barclays Center crossing, advise attendance at public meeting tomorrow on scope for Supplemental EIS

A couple of elected officials who long opposed Atlantic Yards still have some specific criticisms, voiced last night at a public meeting sponsored by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC) at PS 9 on Underhill Avenue. (Here's the live blog from Patch.)

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery said elected officials including her, Council Members Steve Levin and Letitia James, and Assemblyman Walter Mosley, are sending a letter to the city Department of Transportation "to complain about the hazardous crossing in front of the Barclays Center."
"It is so hazardous that one of my staff has reported she was almost killed because a limousine ran one of the yellow lights," Montgomery said. "We've had many, many complaints... we're asking for some remedies."

She added that she's been "extremely aggravated... when I drive up and try to park in front of Atlantic Center and there are these limos running their engines... That'…

Ratner on Bloomberg TV: projects includes 16 residential (?) buildings; arena job figures indicate "great job"

In a Bloomberg TV interview with the always probing Betty Liu, Bruce Ratner yesterday talked up modular construction and arena progress.

His interviewer asked him about modular.

"We've got 16 buildings to build, 16 residential buildings at Atlantic Yards," Ratner replied, either mistakenly swapping the planned office tower for residential or revealing that such a swap has already been decided.

“We wanted to come up with a method that assured the same kind of pricing and also was less expensive to build, but still as good or higher quality," he said. In other words, they want to maintain rents at luxury level, but save money.



Liu asked if there was demand for housing.

"It's amazing," Ratner responded. " In this city, we have such huge demand for residential rentals.

Why is that?

"This city did not have the kind of recession" that other places had. "Brooklyn is definitely the place to be today,”

Liu mentioned about financial layoff. R…

Crain's: Barclays bounce is mainly for bars

A Crain's article headlined Brooklyn: Few neighbors see biz bounce cites booming business at bars near the arena, but--as othershave reported--disappointment for other establishments:
"The Barclays Center has been no good to me," said A.B. Fulani, who has run a boutique suit shop just a block up Flatbush Avenue for 15 years. "People come here to get drunk for a few hours. They don't come to buy a shirt and tie." One reason is that parking is impossible on event days. And while Fulani claims big-box stores at Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal mall have benefited, I'm not so sure.
The main influx of customers is at bars and restaurants where they can ingest their purchase; no one's carrying bags into the arena.

A Daily News essay claiming "Park Slope was wrong about Barclays Center," the flaws in the logic, and the original skepticism discarded

See bottom for Scott Turner's response.

So, in the wake of a curiously reported New York Times article that declared arena-related problems "everyday irritants" came a conclusory op-ed in the Daily News yesterday, headlined The drunken hordes that never came: Park Slope was wrong about Barclays Center.

Louise Crawford, founder of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn (at this point more of a press release service than anything), has posted her original essay, declaring she was "very frustrated" with the editing.

(In the case of an essay, rather than reportage, isn't the solution to just pull the piece? The Daily News has long been an Atlantic Yards cheerleader, and one former reporter charged that the paper pulled her off the Atlantic Yards beat at Ratner's request.)

She noted:
I had nothing to do with the headline (The drunken hordes that never came) or the subtitle (Park Slope was wrong about Barclays Center), which, as you can imagine, really rankled me. Inde…

Housing advocates call for "real affordability," warning of mismatch between subsidized apartments and local incomes; mismatch long criticized regarding Atlantic Yards

A major affordable housing advocacy group has just confirmed a citywide problem that Atlantic Yards critics have long identified: promised "affordable housing" would be unaffordable for most locals.

The organization proposes a tool to evaluate "real affordability," a measure that should raise questions about numerous promised "affordable housing" projects, including Atlantic Yards.

To recap: a major selling point for Atlantic Yards has been the promises of "affordable housing": 2,250 subsidized rental units among 6,430 overall apartments.

Or, as indicated in a promotional flyer produced by Forest City Ratner in 2006 before the project was trimmed slightly: "over 6,800 units of badly needed mixed-income housing for  Brooklyn." The headline: "Atlantic Yards" Helping Solve Brooklyn's Housing Crisis."

But it wouldn't solve much.

As I wrote in 2006, when the proposed total was 6,860 units, 84% would go to households…

As New York vies for marquee sports events, a good deal for the public or just good business for owners?

From a New York Times Sports section article today headlined New York Builds Momentum in Sports:
In the next few years, though, the New York metropolitan area will host numerous marquee events that will thrust it into the sports spotlight. This summer, the major league baseball All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field, followed next year by the first outdoor cold-weather Super Bowl, at MetLife Stadium. A few weeks later, basketball fans will head to Madison Square Garden to see the final rounds of the East Regional of the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament. By then, the N.B.A. will probably have decided whether the 2015 All-Star Game will be played at the Garden or at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Throw in the N.F.L. and N.B.A. drafts in Manhattan and the N.H.L. draft at Prudential Center in Newark, as well as annual events like the United States Open tennis tournament and the New York City Marathon, and New Yorkers will have a full slate of top-flight sports to attend.The Barclays …

Getting real on rezonings: "you’re dumping a whole lot of untapped value on property owners" (and an override of zoning is even more lucrative)

From The Great Air Race, an article about air rights and developer on the front of today's New York TImes Real Estate section:
Controversial when it was built, Trump World Tower has its defenders. “You could subscribe to the theory that towers like these are the Empire State Buildings of the 21st century,” said Joshua Stein, a prominent commercial real estate lawyer.
“In the real estate market,” he added, “some projects are very buffeted by the economic winds and some aren’t, but residential development projects are often the first to get buffeted. And now we’re in a market where people are developing again, which is why we’re talking about development rights again. Whenever you see a potential rezoning, like we’re seeing with Midtown East, you create unused development potential: you’re dumping a whole lot of untapped value on property owners.” (Emphasis added)
He is saying the obvious, but the obvious needs to be said more often.
The rationale for rezonings
Rezonings aim not mere…

Naming rights go down the slippery slope: a private prison corporation and KFC get slammed (but what about Barclays?)

A lot of people think that naming rights for sports facilities--especially those associated with colleges--can get dicey, but, curiously enough, the Barclays Center, named for a bank with a rather problematic recent ethical record (not just one big fine but two other probes), doesn't get mentioned much.
New York Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins, in her Feb. 21 column headlined Peculiar Naming Rites, wrote:
Auctioning off your motto is nothing, really. We have lived with the sale of naming rights so long that generations of Americans have grown up taking it for granted that it is a fine thing to see your college team end a season by winning the Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl. Remember when Houston was stuck with Enron Field in 2001? Embarrassing for a second, but then the city resold the rights to Minute Maid for $170 million. Naming rights: good. Renaming rights: better.

This week Florida Atlantic University announced plans to christen its football stadium in honor of GEO Group, a priva…

Behind that Barclays Center cantorial concert, a whiff of Lower East Side development politics (Ratner + Met Council/Silver = Seward Park edge?)

When the New York Times last month got the scoop on the new Barclays Center's first-ever concert of Jewish music, it was explained as an outgrowth of a three-decade friendship between violinist Itzhak Perlman and arena developer Bruce Ratner, whose daughters went to private school together.

The concert also features cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot and Ratner, we were told, "remains an aficionado of cantorial music." Jewish publications like the Forward took the same angle. The latest detail, as reported in the Huffington Post, is that this concert unusually will offer separate seating for men and women.

But Ratner didn't get to be Brooklyn's most powerful developer simply by indulging in artistic passions and helping out a friend.

Other evidence--even if Ratner won't confirm it--hints at business calculation, an effort to bolster ties with a charitable ally and one of the state's most powerful politicians.

That could help Forest City Ratner in the heated co…

At tonight's Barclays Center community tickets giveaway, DBNA offers prize for "best African attire"

Tonight is the latest event in the monthly community tickets giveaway mandated under the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement( CBA), and managed by the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA), led by the Rev. Herbert Daughtry under the administration of his daughter Sharon Daughtry.

Only nonprofits registered as of last November 30 are eligible for the monthly drawing, though eligibility should reopen in July or August for the second year of operation

As indicated on the flyer below, tonight's event also serves as an African American History Month Celebration and "The DBNA Suite will be given for a game event at Barclays Center to the person wearing the best African attire!!!"

The impulse to recognize the month is understandable. But I'm not sure offering a prize for "best African attire" is the most inclusive strategy for a project serving a broad community, given that some potential attendees, for a number of reasons, do not have such attire…