Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Meetings on proposed Barclays-area BID, scheduled for May 2, have been postponed

I reported that there were two meetings scheduled for May 2 for the proposed Business Improvement District, but the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership says the meetings have been postponed. No new date has been announced yet.

In Observer's latest Power 100 list, Ratner (+Gilmartin) drop (?!) to 80; SHoP surfaces at 89

Last May I wrote that the New York Observer wasn't completely fair in downgrading Bruce Ratner in the latest iteration of its Real Estate Power 100, from 2011's #48 to 2012's #72. The designation contained some remarkably tough language:
He completed one of the most beautiful buildings [8 Spruce Street] on the skyline by the world's most famous architect, with sky-high rents to boot, but the brand, not to mention the family name, has been so blackened in Brooklyn, it will be a wonder if he ever builds there again.
I agreed the brand has been blackened, including by the loss in court on the environmental review case and the lawsuit filed against Forest City Ratner and its Community Benefits Agreement partner BUILD, plus the machinations in Yonkers. But I didn't think that most elected officials and reporters/editorialists either agree or would say so publicly, and they haven't.

And, in the past year, Ratner opened the Barclays Center, to much acclaim and rather less recognition of the unfulfilled promises or the Culture of Cheating, as well as launching the world's tallest modular tower, which, if successful, could be a turning point for construction in the city.

You'd think Ratner would rise, but instead he--and his recently named successor--slip a bit in the Observer's admittedly subjective list:
80. MaryAnne Gilmartin and Bruce Ratner (72) CEO - Forest City Ratner
It had been rumored for months, but just two weeks ago it was finally confirmed: Ms. Gilmartin, the heir apparent, would take over as chief executive officer of Forest City Ratner Companies. At the forefront of FCRC’s activity at Atlantic Yards, Barclays Center, MetroTech and The New York Times building, Ms. Gilmartin will now take control of the developer’s day-to-day operations. Mr. Ratner, for his part, will stay involved in the business, which was a condition of taking the reins, according to Ms. Gilmartin. “We finish each others’ sentences; we have spirited debates,” Ms. Gilmartin told The Commercial Observer of her relationship with Mr. Ratner earlier this month. “We often have better results because of the way we can argue back and forth, and I expect all of that will continue.”
The rise of SHoP

Also notable is a first appearance of SHoP, which gets shorthand credit for the Barclays Center, while it actually designed the eye-catching facade and some of the interiors:
89. Christopher Sharples, Coren Sharples, William Sharples, Kimberly Holden, Gregg PasquarelliCo-Founders - SHoP Architects
In only a few short years, SHoP Architects has become the architect of record for developers looking for flourishes and willing to take risks. Best known as the designer of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center arena, SHoP Architects will expand its presence across the East River as designer of Two Trees’ Domino Sugar Factory development in Williamsburg. New plans call for tripling the amount of office space in the sparse commercial district and increasing the amount of outdoor space. Moving north to Queens, SHoP has partnered with Related Companies at the Hunters Point South development in Long Island City. The partnership, which also includes Philips Houses and Monadnock Construction, is building the first two towers of a seven-tower residential complex.
SHoP is also working on a controversial soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows.

20-foot-high sculpture (meeting point?) coming to Barclays Center oculus; savvy investment for arena promoters, as costs get ignored

In Humanity' in Arena's New Sculpture, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday on Bushwick-based sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard's planned a 20-foot-high work coming in September near the Barclays Center's entrance.

We don't quite know what'll look like:
The sculpture, named "Ona," was constructed first in cedar and now is being cast in bronze at a foundry in upstate New York. The name means "she" or "her" in Polish, the artist's first language.
"There's going to be, I hope, a kind of humanity in it," Ms. von Rydingsvard, 70 years old, said.
The sculptor eschews sketches and renderings, so what the final product will look like remains somewhat of a mystery. Many of her works have roughly textured, puzzle-like surfaces. This sculpture, the artist said, will have a surface that undulates like waves chasing each other in the sea.
A new meeting point?

The Journal reported:
David Berliner, COO of Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner, commissioned the work. He said he hopes the sculpture will be "iconic and exuberant and hopeful," signaling that the arena isn't just a sports venue but a cultural center. Other artworks commissioned by Barclays Center include murals by Brooklyn-based artists Mickalene Thomas and José Parlá.
Ms. von Rydingsvard's work, he said, has a strength and heroicism that should complement the Barclays Center's muscular architecture, and beckon people emerging from the subway at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. The 10,000-pound sculpture will stand in front of the arena's main entrance under the so-called oculus, a circular opening in a roof that juts over the plaza. "It will be a meeting place," he said. "I'll meet you by the sculpture."
The cost, and the value

That's a savvy move by Berliner and colleagues; for less than $1 million--the upper end for one of von Rydingsvard's works--they get to add an amenity to the arena, buff its reputation, and gain substantial publicity even five months before the sculpture's installed.

That helps distract from the delays in delivering benefits such as subsidized housing or the jobs that were supposed to come with the office tower looming over the arena at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

Then again, the Wall Street Journal is not the toughest forum. "We are very keen on delivering on our promises," Berliner claimed in a brief separate profile recognizing his promotion from general counsel to Chief Operating Officer. Actually, they're not.

And, beyond this blog, no one's trying to calculate the value of the land Forest City Ratner got for free from the city, including--as evidence suggests--a city street for which they initially were expected to pay "fair market appraised value."

I estimated the savings at well over $100 million.

Other promotions: Burch, Cotton

The Commercial Observer reported:
“Like MaryAnne, I have known and worked with David for many years and he truly is the backbone of the company. Under his guidance all of the different divisions in the Company function in harmony, producing the wonderful projects that we build,” added Bruce Ratner, executive chairman, in the statement.
Also, today, FCRC announced Melissa Román Burch has been promoted to executive vice president of commercial and residential development. Additionally, Ashley Cotton has been promoted to senior vice president of external affairs and chief of staff to Ms. Gilmartin.

From the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert: adjustments may be made as pile drilling proceeds; new construction fence for B2

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, issued (and dated) yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner, there may be adjustments coming on pile drilling at the Vanderbilt Yard:
Actual pile drilling along and outside the south wall to the yard started on April 22nd and will continue for the next several months. All mitigation devices are in place and are being monitored hourly and daily with respect to noise and dust. As the process progresses and we gain experience with this new drilling equipment, we will actively seek to tweak and try to improve on mitigation.
Regarding the modular residential tour known as B2:
Site excavation is expected to be completed within this reporting period. Work will result in the use of 5-10 dump trucks (varies per day, 3 round trips each) and up to 15-30 loads of material to be transported off site per day.
A new fence is going up:
During the week of April 29th a construction fence on the east side of the Dean Street entrance to the arena for the purpose of beginning construction of the transfer foundations for B2. Removal of existing paving in this area will also commence.
Work continues on Saturdays, 7 am to 6 pm.

Fro-yo outlet from NJ coming to long-empty Flatbush Avenue Barclays retail space

I had a brief yesterday in New York magazine's Grub Street blog, New Jersey Chain Let’s YO! Opening at Barclays Center!, explaining how Let's Yo! is beginning a long-promised NYC invasion with a Barclays Center exterior space.

The space, on Flatbush Avenue just east of Fifth Avenue next to Rocawear, should benefit from arena crowds. Inside, concessions offer Brooklyn's Blue Marble ice cream, not yogurt.

One commenter questioned the arena's commitment to Brooklyn vendors. Well, the vendors are inside, part of an outlet run by Levy Restaurants, not paying big bucks for an exterior retail space.

And the arena can't afford to be choosy: the retail slot has been empty (except for a brief pop-up Nike shop) since the arena opened last September. It's not like there's an aversion to national chains.

The fro-yo fever

There's no shortage of nearby fro-yo competition. Less than four blocks down Fifth Avenue, embedded in residential Park Slope, YogurBerry opened last May. (It still boasts a "Grand Opening" sign outside.)

On Fort Greene's Fulton Street, a few blocks north of the arena, Silver Spoon last year rebranded itself as a slice joint still slinging yogurt.

A bit farther away, on Park Slope's Seventh Avenue, last October Yogo Monster closed in the wake of a Pinkberry invasion.

Monday, April 29, 2013

As EB-5 controversy surfaces in Virginia political battle, a new focus not just on fraud but on corporate welfare

There's been a shift in the public discussion of the EB-5 immigrant investor program, used in Atlantic Yards and many other projects, in which immigrants investing $500,000 in a purportedly job-creating project can get green cards for themselves and their families.

Often it's been described as a win-win-win for all--the immigrants, the investors, and the public--though with subordinate mention of potential fraud or corruption. See, for example, the 3/21/13 Washington Post article headlined Foreign citizens making big investments in U.S. in exchange for green cards.

Of late, however, that potential fraud has been highlighted, and at least one influential commentator, a Washington Post editorial writer, has looked beyond the issue of transactional integrity to declare the program itself a "dubious policy" of "corporate welfare."

That squares with my analysis of the Atlantic Yards EB-5 deal; after all, the ten jobs per investor need only to be projected in an economist's analysis, and documents suggest the $228 million in immigrant investor funds are not seed money but merely substituting for a higher-interest loan.

So local officials are helping get developers and entrepreneurs cheap capital at no cost--the lure to investors is the green cards, scarce commodities whose value gets downplayed.

And, yes, there were also signs of fraud with Atlantic Yards: potential investors were told they were investing in a basketball arena, though the money instead would go to infrastructure.

Longtime EB-5 critic David North wrote last month:
But, as a matter of policy, the EB-5 program is really a silly little program that lets rich people (and moderately rich ones) buy green cards on the open market. It is tacky. It should be allowed to die, or, if it is to continue, the cost per visa should be much higher, and the money should be used not for Marriotts, but to reduce the national debt.
The McAuliffe kerfuffle

EB-5 has surfaced as a flashpoint in a political fight, as the New York Times reported 4/25/13 Venture Threatens to Backfire in Virginia Governor’s Race:
CLIFTON FORGE, Va. — When Terry McAuliffe appeared with his good friend Bill Clinton at the ribbon-cutting for Mr. McAuliffe’s electric car company in July 2012, the campaign-style event, complete with “Born in the U.S.A.” blaring, was meant to supply the top line of his résumé as he positioned himself to run for governor of Virginia.

But less than a year later, the company, GreenTech Automotive, has become a potential embarrassment as Mr. McAuliffe campaigns on the slogan “Putting Jobs First” and seeks to keep the spotlight on the conservative social views of his Republican opponent, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the state attorney general.

Mr. McAuliffe resigned as GreenTech’s chairman last year but publicly acknowledged it only this month. Documents have surfaced questioning his explanation for why he located the plant in Mississippi, not Virginia, including memos from Virginia officials expressing “grave doubts” about his business model and suggesting its financing was a “visa-for-sale scheme” for Chinese investors.

...The path to GreenTech for Mr. McAuliffe, who has never held elective office, began in defeat in the 2009 primary for governor, when charges that he was a carpetbagger without Virginia ties proved devastating. In the four years since, he traveled the state extensively and raised $20 million to buy a Hong Kong-based electric carmaker, renaming it GreenTech and moving its headquarters to Northern Virginia, where he lives..... 
Officials also questioned GreenTech’s plan to attract Chinese investors using a visa program that awards green cards to foreigners who put up $500,000 or more for a start-up business. One development official wrote that she could not “get my head around this being anything other than a visa-for-sale scheme.”

...Asked how much of GreenTech’s financing was raised through foreign investors seeking green cards, known as EB-5 visas, [McAuliffe] referred the question to GreenTech’s current executives. Marianne McInerney, a vice president, said the EB-5 program was important to “our initial capital strategy” but did not represent the majority of current investments.
The National Review reported, in Virginia’s Fears of a ‘Visa-for-Sale Scheme’Economic advisers to Tim Kaine had concerns about McAuliffe’s green-car company.
But internal communications from VEDP now reveal that the state agency didn’t merely think that McAuliffe’s company had a risky business model. At least two high-ranking officials actually suspected that the company’s real aim was to make money by selling U.S. residency visas to wealthy foreigners.
In an e-mail dated November 17, 2009, Liz Povar, then the director of business development at VEDP, wrote to her colleagues:

Sandi et al. Even if the company has investors “lined up”, I maintain serious concerns about the establishment of an EB-5 center in general, and most specifically based on this company. Not only based on (lack of) management expertise, (lack of) market preparation, etc. but also still can’t get my head around this being anything other than a visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications that we have no way to confirm or discount. . . .

This “feels” like a national political play instead of a Virginia economic development opportunity. I am not willing to stake Virginia’s reputation on this at this juncture.
The e-mails were revealed pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by PolitiFact; 79 pages of documents were posted online in January.
Note that Virginia officials were not questioning the fundamental nature of EB-5 as "visas for sale"--though that's certainly how it could be described--but whether it could work under the program rules. Also, state officials were alarmed that the regional center--the nongovernmental entity set up to recruit and pool immigrants' investments--seemed to be a potential conflict-of-interest, as it was created for just this project.

The latter is hardly an issue for most projects. But the issue seems to be that GreenTech was a riskier investment than most seeking regional center backing.

That raises a question. After all, if the EB-5 investment is totally safe, why they do they need cheap capital anyhow. (The documents are here.)
The critique in the Post

Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane, in a 4/15/13 column headlined Charles Lane: EB-5 visa immigration program is flawed, nailed it:
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is under fire because an electric-vehicle firm the Democrat formerly headed raised capital through a program that awards green cards to foreign investors in return for creating jobs in the United States — but it’s not clear how many jobs McAuliffe’s firm generated.
McAuliffe quietly resigned from GreenTech Automotive before e-mails surfaced and sparked questions about the company. I don’t know whether McAuliffe did anything especially wrong — and, in a way, I don’t care. The EB-5 visa-for-dollars program itself is the real scandal.

When Congress approved it in 1990, lawmakers saw a win-win: Investors and their families get to emigrate; the United States gets their money, talent and ambition.

Federal law sets aside 10,000 permanent-residency slots for EB-5 each year, along with 130,000 other employment-based immigrant visas and several hundred thousand additional green cards allocated for refugees, family reunification and the like. U.S. officials tout the $6.8 billion invested and 50,000 jobs created since the program’s start.

Sounds impressive — until you realize that foreign investment in the United States totals $2.5 trillion and that the program’s fuzzy job-creation count includes jobs “indirectly” attributable to the investment.

EB-5 would be dubious policy even if it could claim five times that impact. Simply put, it is corporate welfare — yet another attempt to subsidize the flow of capital into politically favored channels.
Lane registers the standard objection to EB-5--that we shouldn't be selling visas--and agrees, but calls it a misconception:
In other words, the government is leveraging its monopoly on green card-issuance into a source of artificially cheap capital for a few lucky companies.
I wonder how many jobs we could create if the government sold 10,000 visas to the highest bidder — then spent the cash on, say, infrastructure or aid to the poor, with their respective Keynesian multipliers.
What we do know is that EB-5 has created a lot of jobs — for consultants, brokers and other fee-seeking middlemen. Again, it’s an open question whether that’s the most productive use of scarce resources, domestic and foreign...
Capital steered to EB-5-favored business is capital not available to others who might have used it more efficiently. Demand for green cards far exceeds the limited supply. Every green card awarded to an immigrant who has already made his fortune abroad is a green card that can’t go to an immigrant who wants to make his fortune in the United States.
One commenter, Alysha Webb, observed,
Thanks for writing about this program. I cover China and electric vehicles, and have run into this program many times as a way companies in the EV sector -- many with Chinese ties or outright Chinese owners -- are able to stay here in the U.S. I have nothing against these companies -- they give me something to write about. But the EB-5 program does need to be more carefully supervised. And as you point out, there is a shortage of green cards for people who would actually work and pay taxes here.
Some of the documents and discussion also surfaced in conservative columnist Michelle Malkin's 4/15/13 column, Desperate Dem Terry McAuliffe sues Watchdog.org over green tech/cash-for-visas exposé.

The role of scams

The unseemly side of EB-5 has come to the fore, as Los Angeles Times reported 4/23/13, Scams blocking Chinese investors' path to U.S. green cards:
The North American Securities Administrators Assn., an advocacy group, now ranks EB-5-related scams as one of the top new threats to investors.

Overall, EB-5 visas are a small part of the 140,000 immigrant visas allotted annually on the basis of employment. But given the nation's budget crunch and continued high unemployment, lawmakers have called for expanding the EB-5 program.

...Canada, Australia and Britain have investor-visa programs similar to the EB-5. Portugal and Ireland, hard hit by the Eurozone debt crisis, offer residency papers for big property purchases. And Spain, suffering from a glut of unsold homes, is considering giving visas for house purchases of as little as $210,000.

"The underbelly is that once people started to see growth in this program, we started to see a lot more fraud," said Muzaffar Chishti, a director at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington.
While EB-5 has become popular, the article reports, the program suffers when job creation is not met or projects are misrepresented, notably a proposed convention center and hotel project near the O'Hare airport in Chicago. The LA Times reported:
Officials from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, which had greenlighted Sethi's EB-5 regional center, would not discuss the case because it is pending. More generally, they said their oversight focuses on ensuring that EB-5 projects truly create jobs.
It is not the agency's role to evaluate the effectiveness of a regional center or make any assurances about the quality of the investment opportunities they offer, spokesman Christopher Bentley said.
(Emphasis added)

I don't think they focus on ensuring that EB-5 projects truly create jobs. I think they focus on ensuring that applicants have appropriate documents from economists projecting such jobs.

Another Forest City EB-5 role

Forest City Enterprises, the parent of Forest City Ratner, has been using EB-5 financing elsewhere. From City of Dallas Regional Center-Funded Projects Named Finalists in Dallas Business Journal’s “Best Real Estate Deals”:
Three projects financed by the City of Dallas Regional Center (CDRC), a public-private partnership between the City of Dallas and Civitas EB-5 Funds, have been named finalists in the Dallas Business Journal’s Best Real Estate Deals awards...

“Our practice is to invest in institutional-quality projects with top-tier sponsors to bring new jobs and economic growth to Dallas,” said Daniel J. Healy, CEO of Civitas Capital Group. “We are excited about these projects, and we congratulate Forest City Enterprises, Matthews Southwest, and Trammel Crow Residential on being named finalists.”

The Forest City-Cityplace West Village development began construction in 2013. Located in the heart of Uptown, the twenty-story residential tower also features a four-story wood framed building and will bring a new urban living experience to Dallas, complete with retail and restaurants.
According to the news release:
The City of Dallas Regional Center is the official EB-5 regional center of the City of Dallas. In a unique public-private partnership, the City collaborates with Civitas Capital Group to provide the highest quality EB-5 investment opportunities to investors around the world. The CDRC takes full advantage of the City of Dallas’ pro-business culture, steady growth and job creation, all of which have made the City and the surrounding region a magnet for corporate headquarters, business expansion and foreign trade.

A resonant scandal, from Chicago

The big scandal in the EB-5 world involves a Chicago project. According to EB5Info, How the ACCC Scandal has Disturbed the EB-5 Market in China:
On February 6, 2013, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged the EB-5 project A Chicago Convention Center (ACCC) and its principal Anshoo R. Sethi with securities fraud. The project was marketed primarily in China, with great pomp and fanfare. It offered 499 limited membership interests to EB-5 investors and managed to sell more than $145 million in securities, unfortunately under misleading pretenses. There was $11 million in administrative fees collected from more than 250 investors. Despite a promise to refund this fee should the case collapse, more than 90 percent of the administrative fees have already been dissipated. Fortunately for the investors, the actual investment money was kept in escrow and thereby saved. However, as this event is unprecedented in EB-5 history and the first time an EB-5 transaction of this size has been put on the radar of the SEC. The ACCC case has had profound impacts in EB-5 marketing trends in China.
...The negative publicity surrounding ACCC certainly has contributed to pushing potential investors into the arms of the European competition. In the last month alone, we are aware of at least 20 confirmed investors, who had signed up for US EB-5 projects, withdraw, preferring to invest in Portugal instead. Based on our constant interaction with the Chinese investors, brokers and marketing consultants, issues such as the prolonged processing times (investors are tired of waiting for as long as 18 months to obtain a I-526 approval), the greater investment risks, unpredictability in policy making, not to forget the massive amount of negative publicity in China, following the ACCC debacle, have all contributed to this detachment. 

Free Atlantic Yards tour Sunday, May 5, part of Jane's Walks weekend

From the Municipal Art Society: On Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5, thousands of New Yorkers will come together for Jane’s Walk NYC – a weekend series of 100+ FREE guided walks (and bike rides!) throughout New York’s five boroughs. Registration is NOT required. Whether you choose to stroll through neighborhoods you love or discover new neigborhoods you’ve never visited, you’ll enjoy this international program created to commemorate the life and legacy of urbanist Jane Jacobs.

My tour: Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards and the Barclays Center, In Context
   Time: Sunday, May 5, 3:00 PM – 5:15 pm 
   Walk Host: Norman Oder
   Accessibility: Partially Accessible - curbs, uneven terrain, busy sidewalks

Description: Join Atlantic Yards Report watchdog journalist and New York Like A Native guide Norman Oder on a walk around and beyond the controversial Atlantic Yards site, home to the new Barclays Center arena, and 16 planned towers, one under construction. While visiting Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, Oder will discuss the context, history, and still uncertain future of the ambitious project (announced in 2003), and the debates about urban design, architecture, public process, and eminent domain. Current issues involve the developer's plans to build the world's tallest modular tower and the mostly favorable reception of the arena, sited adjacent to a transit hub yet still frustrating some neighbors, who won a court decision requiring a new environmental review of the project's second phase.

Meeting Place: Outside Williamsburgh Savings Bank, One Hanson Place, just north of Atlantic Terminal mall and Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center subway terminus, Brooklyn

Ending Place: Dean Street & Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Times: ESDC hiring significantly based on ties to Cuomo (what else is new)

The Empire State Development Corporation is the purportedly independent agency--or, to be technical, authority or entity--overseeing Atlantic Yards. It's well-known that the ESDC is under the control of the governor, which is why opponents and critics of Atlantic Yards have called for a less dependent entity--along the lines of the Battery Park City Authority--to oversee Atlantic Yards and allow for public input.

A front-page New York Times article, headlined Many Openings at State Agency Go to Those With Ties to Cuomo, raises further qualms about the independence and quality of the agency.

Note that agency hiring based on political ties is hardly novel; notably, the official overseeing Atlantic Yards, Arana Hankin, was appointed by previous Gov. David Paterson in 2010 to a new, unadvertised position.

Or, if we go back a few governors, let's remember that a 2007 consultant's study called for reform of ESDC's parent organization, blaming agency failures on "political patronage," "political convenience," and the "practice of favoring political over economic criteria."

So should we really have expected Gov. Andrew Cuomo to act differently?

The Times's investigation

Today's article begins:
ALBANY — New York State’s economic development agency created a new position last June, and then found a candidate to fill it: a young man named Willard Younger, who had just graduated from Colgate University with a degree in classics and religion. He became a special projects associate, at a salary of $45,000 a year, according to state personnel records.
His father, Stephen P. Younger, is a lawyer and power broker in legal circles who was a member of one of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s transition teams. He has also donated $26,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaigns over the years, disclosure records show.
The next month, the agency hired 23-year-old Andrew Moelis, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, for another new position, strategic planning associate, at a salary of $75,000 a year.
Shortly before Mr. Moelis’s first day of work, his father, Ron Moelis, a prominent real estate developer, gave $25,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign, according to the records.
Since taking office in 2011, Mr. Cuomo has repeatedly pledged to bring a new approach to Albany, where politicians of both major parties have long rewarded supporters with jobs that are not open to the general public.
But an investigation by The New York Times into hiring by the agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, shows how Mr. Cuomo’s administration has engaged in some of the same patronage practices that have often prevailed here.
... While some of the new employees at Empire State had experience in economic development, others did not. Some of the jobs were not open to competition, and were filled with little input from the agency itself.
Empire State has also hired friends of Mr. Cuomo who may help form his political brain trust should he decide to run for president in 2016.
James P. Rubin, a former State Department spokesman, was hired at the agency in 2011 as counselor on competitiveness and international affairs, with a salary of $150,000 a year. Mr. Rubin’s appointment was seen by political consultants as a move by Mr. Cuomo to add a foreign policy hand to his stable.
Empire State hired 49 people in the first 20 months of the Cuomo administration, according to personnel records obtained by The Times. Nearly a third were the governor’s political associates, donors and friends, or their relatives, the records and interviews show.
At least seven of the new hires with connections were placed in newly created positions.
As the Times explains, ESDC has only 300 employees, but can be used for patronage because it's outside the executive branch. Kenneth Adams, who heads the agency, wouldn't comment.

It's well-known that hiring in state government has to go through Cuomo's office. That's likely why it took so long for the ESDC to hire Derek Lynch last September as Government and Community Affairs Manager, filling the position long left open by the June 2011 departure of Forrest Taylor, once billed as an ombudsman.

There's no evidence that Lynch was a political hire along the lines of those named in the article, but the push for political hires likely slowed the effort to fill that position.

Some comments from the Times web site
DJS New York
The fact that Empire State's job openings were "advertised" hardly disproves the allegations of patronage.My cousin ,who works for New York State, has told me that jobs are routinely posted after they have already been filled by "insiders" in order to protect against just such allegations.
What are the statistical odds, ,that nearly ONE-THIRD of 49 new hires, purely by CHANCE,happened to be"political associates, donors, friends, or relatives" ?!!

att A Manhattan
Should we all be aghast that a politician makes political appointments to friends and cronies? Perhaps the Times can find a single example of a politician who does not. That would be a newsworthy story! There is only one way to have fewer political appointees and that is to have less government. Don't hold your breath in New York State.

Eman
Waldwick, NJ
Not remotely close to being a scandal. And actually, not even any story hear. Headline says "many openings" then identifies 16 or fewer positions out of 49 new hires over a two year period. I would have expected much higher numbers if NY was to be consistent with the way government operates in the rest of the US, from the smallest towns all the way through the Federal government.

And an Ivy league graduate was being paid $45,000. So? Where's the story? Another Ivy league graduate, with financial experience in the private sector, was paid $75,000. A scandal!!!, Really? From what I've seen, the Governor is able to attract many top notch people to State Government - people who did, and could be again, earning many times more working in the private sector. According to an article in the paper last year, Governor Cuomo only put in about 5 people at the Port Authority, while his NJ counterpart, Mr. Chris Christie, put in about 50 people there. But Mr. Christie's popularity is at 78% or so, and Mr. Cuomo is being vilified. The Times should report that, given the dismal state of affairs in government in this country, NY is very fortunate to have Mr. Cuomo as its Governor.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Should the Barclays-area BID really be called Atlantic Terminal?

So, meeting announcements being circulated suggest that the working title for the planned Barclays Center-area business improvement district (BID) is the Atlantic Terminal BID.

Huh?

What about Atlantic-Flatbush? Or Barclays-BAM?

Few call the area Atlantic Terminal or use that term for the transit hub. Many even truncate the name of the Atlantic Terminal mall, over the LIRR tracks and some subway tracks, to the "Atlantic mall."

I doubt most of those taking advantage of the BID's services would declare they're going to "Atlantic Terminal." Heck, those involved in Atlantic Yards were enlightened that the project was on part of a long-established but little discussed Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area, or ATURA.

If Atlantic Terminal is the name, it would be blandly distracting. The nexus of the BID is at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, home to the Barclays Center, developed and controlled by the biggest BID contributor, Forest City.

Shouldn't the name reflect that better? Maybe we'll hear some discussion at the May 2 meetings regarding the BID.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Proposed Barclays-area BID boundaries shrink, eliminate Atlantic Yards site east of Sixth Avenue, 470 Vanderbilt

Guess what? After criticism that a planned new Business Improvement District (BID) to serve the area around the Barclays Center, nearby malls, and the cultural district anchored by Brooklyn Academy of Music should not include undeveloped property in the Atlantic Yards Phase 2 site, the boundaries of the proposed BID have been shrunk.

The revised map at right (click to enlarge) now excludes the Atlantic Yards site east of Sixth Avenue beyond the arena block and the adjacent block west of Flatbush Avenue. (That block includes Site 5, home to Modell's and P.C. Richard, ultimately to be replaced by a 25-story tower that's part of Atlantic Yards. It also includes the Brooklyn Bear's Community Garden, not part of AY.)

The map now excludes 470 Vanderbilt, a large office building north of Atlantic Avenue that will have ground-floor retail and, ultimately, housing in an adjacent lot (perhaps with retail at its base).

See below left for the earlier proposed boundaries, which extended the new BID to Vanderbilt Avenue. As noted below, two public meetings May 2 will discuss the BID. [Update April 30: These meetings have been postponed.]



Pros and cons

Also see my original post for some pros and cons regarding BIDs. For example, services such as cleaning and security can both enhance public space but also exclude those that detract from BID members' commercial goals.

And while monitoring polices can foster accountability, a BID's influence can co-opt local government authority and give property owners a larger voice than residents. Hence concern that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner will use the BID to amplify its voice.

Broad goals

The yet-unnamed BID has broad ambitions and boundaries, according to the original press release:
The service area could include Barclays Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Cultural District and commercial blocks on Flatbush, Atlantic and Vanderbilt Avenues. Property owners in the district would self-assess an additional property tax to fund services including sanitation, extra security, streetscape improvements and maintenance, programming as well as promotion and marketing opportunities. The BID also would facilitate economic development, urban planning and advocacy efforts for neighborhood services.
Though the new map excludes the second phase of Atlantic Yards, the BID, likely to be significantly influenced if not controlled by Forest City Ratner (by virtue of the arena and adjacent malls), likely would weigh in on Atlantic Yards.

Note that other nearby property owners, as well as BID organizer Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (itself steered significantly by FCR), on 2/27/13 urged that the state proceed expeditiously with a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement so as not to impede Forest City's Phase 2 plan for Atlantic Yards.

Since Forest City still has much to do on Phase 1 and has a loose timetable for Phase 2, that roadblock is more perceptual than actual. But surely Forest City would like the state to endorse Forest City's plan and not recommend--as some neighbors propose--that other developers be considered to get the project built at a timetable closer to the original ten years rather than the allowed 25 years.

Meetings May 2

As I wrote 4/23/13, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership announced two public meetings on May 2 regarding the BID, hosted with the support of the Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 and 8, Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, NYC Council 33rd District, NYC Council 35th District and the NYC Department of Small Business Services.

1st Public Meeting
Date: Thursday, May 2
Time: 9 to 11 am
Location: Brooklyn Borough Hall - Community Room at 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

2nd Public Meeting
Date: Thursday, May 2
Time: 6 to 8 pm
Location: 80 Arts - James E. Davis Arts Building at 80 Hanson Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Attendees should confirm with Malina Tran at 718-403-1635 or MTran@downtownbrooklyn.com.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Proposed fine against Barclays Center for noise violation (Sensation) dismissed on technicality; new fine proposed for bass coming from Swedish House Mafia show

Maybe the third time's the charm, since two previous efforts to impose noise violations against the Barclays Center were dismissed on technicalities.

After seeing proposed fines for noise violations during the Sensation dance concerts last October dismissed on technicalities, the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has now proposed a $3200 fine against the Barclays Center operator (Brooklyn Events Center) for the 3/2/13 show of Swedish House Mafia.

As the notice at right indicates, inspectors found readings of 55 dB, which is several times above the baseline of 45 dB, with an ambient reading of 40dB.

A hearing is scheduled for 1:00 pm Tuesday April 30, at the Environmental Control Board (ECB), 66 John Street, 10th Floor, in Lower Manhattan.

As I wrote at the time, another neighbor told me that the bass was even "louder than Sensation," the October dance show that was apparently twice as loud as permitted.

This was filed under a different section of the noise code, Section 24-231(a)2,  than the violation proposed for the Sensation show.

As indicated at left, Section 24-231(a)2 imposes a fine on music in excess of 45 dB in any one-third octave band having a center frequency between 63 hertz and 500 hertz, which are low frequencies encompassing bass.

Proposed Sensation fine dismissed

On 4/15/13, I asked if arena operators would be fined for violating the city's noise code, as seemed obvious to many residents nearby the arena during the Sensation dance concerts last October?

After all, the DEP took a reading that seemed to indicate the noise was way over permissible limits--and filed a notice of violation, a replacement for an initial violation that was filed against the wrong party.

A hearing on the proposed violation was scheduled for 4/2/13, then rescheduled for 4/16/13. At that hearing, the attorney for the Barclays Center, Jeff Gewirtz, challenged the violation,.

He noted that a dBC violation under Section 24-231(a) requires an ambient noise level above 62, while in this case the notice said the ambient noise was 60dBC.


DEP legal counsel Russell Pecunies did not oppose the motion. The Administrative Law Judge, Scott Kegelman, asked why DEP used that subsection.

“As to why [the inspector] took C-weighted readings rather than A,” Pecunies said, “as you know, 99 percent of the time, they do use the A scale.” (According to this source, C-weightings are used to measure peak or impact noise levels, such as gunfire.)

Kegelman said, "I must confess, I had a question as to why they cited C and cited the readings they did." He added, "If Mr. Pecunies is willing, he can talk to the witnesses about possible further action."

I followed up with the DEP and was told: "The readings that led to the now dismissed NOV [notice of violation] are not subject to further sanction." I got no further explanation, but it's possible the DEP inspector did not take a separate reading and thus was not equipped to file a different notice of violation.

The DEP did tell me that the separate fine for the Swedish House Mafia show was pending, and would not be subject to a similar motion for dismissal.

Community complaints

As I wrote 3/5/13, while a New York Times review called the Swedish House Mafia show "benign bombast," I could hear/feel the rumble walking outside the arena for the third night of the show. And, a resident told me, it was not nearly as intrusive as it had been the two previous nights.

On 3/3/13, one resident wrote, "More bass from tonight's concert. Seems to be louder than last night." Another affirmed, "Even louder than yesterdays concert." Another asked, "Why can’t the city do something NOW to shut this down?"

Atlantic Yards Watch has compiled a map of the locations of 23 complaints lodged during the Jay-Z and Sensation shows last fall, well beyond the radios of the arena into Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, and Park Slope.

IBO report: Hudson Yards projections were overoptimistic, leaving city on the hook

Rosy projections should be taken with a grain of salt regarding big development projects, right? From the Wall Street Journal, 4/23/13, Hudson Yards Woes Leave City on Hook:
When the city agreed to pick up the tab for the extension of the No. 7 subway line to ease the creation of a new office and residential district on the far West Side, it expected the project could begin paying for itself as early as 2008.
Instead, a single 1.7 million square-foot office tower in the Hudson Yards area has broken ground, while the project envisions 25 million square feet of new office space. And the district generated 40% less revenue from taxes and other development fees than projected between 2006 and 2012, according to a report to be released Wednesday by the New York City Independent Budget Office.
Hudson Yards was expected to produce $283 million in revenue through 2012, but it actually created $170 million, according to the report by IBO, an independent city agency that studies the local economy.
"The commercial development has been much slower than they thought," said Ana Champeny, a supervising analyst at IBO.
The city issued $3 billion in bonds to pay for subway construction and other infrastructure upgrades guaranteed by tax revenues in the area. If those revenues weren't enough to meet interest payments on the bonds, the Bloomberg administration agreed to pay those with additional money drawn from the city budget.
Typically such transit projects would be paid for by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with help from the federal government, but that could have delayed construction of the subway-line extension for years.
The city agreed that if revenue to a quasi-independent agency, the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corp., fell short, it would make up the difference: Between 2006 and 2012 the city gave HYIC $137 million from the budget to help it make interest payments. It has allocated $125 million for interest support payments in 2013, according to IBO.
The IBO cited a 2006 report commissioned by the city from real-estate firm Cushman & Wakefield that anticipated the city would have to help make one interest payment in 2008. In a more conservative scenario, that report said the city would likely have to continue helping pay interest until 2014,
At least the report provided multiple scenarios. How many scenarios did Atlantic Yards backers produce? Only uniformly optimistic ones, at first, then, after the project was approved a second time, they got the deadlines extended from ten to 25 years.

Note: because the Wall Street Journal got a scoop, acquiring the report before publication, other dailies didn't pick up on the news. That's pissy news judgment, denying readers important information just because the publication doesn't want to appear trailing others.

The IBO report

Here's the IBO report. The summary:
The Bloomberg Administration is now proposing a major rezoning of East Midtown. Concerned that this new initiative would compete with Hudson Yards and slow the revenue growth needed to make Hudson Yards self-supporting, Council Member Daniel Garodnick asked IBO to review city spending to date on the plan and to consider the short-term outlook for revenues at Hudson Yards. Among our findings:
  • Public expenditures paid to the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corporation, including funds to help make interest payments on the $3 billion in bonds issued by the corporation, have totaled $374 million since 2006.
  • Over the same period, the city has committed an additional $22 million from its capital budget and $12 million from its operating budget to the project.
  • Revenue collected by the Hudson Yards corporation has fallen short of expectations. The corporation projected that it would collect $283 million in tax and fee revenues through 2012, but in fact has collected $170 million.
  • Property tax revenue that has been dedicated to the project (tax equivalency payments) from other newly developed buildings in the area is expected to grow from $28 million in 2012 to $33 million this year and $44 million next year. IBO expects payments from the first new office tower in Hudson Yards to begin in 2017 or 2018.
The extension of the 7 train, originally estimated at $2.1 billion, is now expected to cost $2.4 billion. The higher cost comes despite the complete elimination of one of the planned subway stations as well as savings on other parts of the subway-related work. The city is responsible for cost overruns on the 7 extension and $55 million of its $101 million in capital spending for Hudson Yards is for the transit work..

NBA Draft to be held at the Barclays Center June 27

From NorthJersey.com's Meadowlands Matters, the news that the National Basketball Association Draft will be held in Brooklyn June 27 at 7 pm:
"We are excited to be holding the NBA Draft in Brooklyn, a borough long associated with great basketball talent,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern in a press release. “In addition to being a state-of-the-art arena, Barclays Center has quickly become a go-to destination for world class events. We are confident Barclays Center is an ideal venue for introducing the next generation of NBA stars to a global audience.”
“Brooklyn has become a major NBA market and basketball fans throughout the borough will be excited to welcome the next class of outstanding talent into the league,” Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark said. “Many of the borough’s greatest all-time players have been drafted into the NBA, making this night a perfect fit for Brooklyn. We are honored to host the 2013 NBA Draft as we continue to bring many of the most high-profile sports and entertainment events to Barclays Center.”
The Nets also saw the draft held in their home the two previous seasons, when they played at the Prudential Center in Newark. Madison Square Garden is heading for a third and final summer of “transformation” – so don’t be shocked if the 2014 draft ends up there.
In case you're wondering, tickets are $20 and $35.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A drummer busking at the Barclays Center plaza? Never, except when it's "Hello Playoffs"

The Barclays Center plaza (sponsored by the Daily News) has not exactly been a nurturing ground for buskers. I haven't seen the official policy, but anyone who tries anything that might draw a crowd routinely gets shooed away.

After all, it's not a public space. It's a privately-managed, publicly-accessible space.

On Monday, April 22, Yesterday, however, as the photo and video show, there was indeed a drummer on the plaza.

As the video suggests, he was even collecting money from enthusiastic onlookers.

I know this may sound like a stretch, but is it remotely possible that the #HelloPlayoffs t-shirt and tub wrapper were sanctioned and supported by the Brooklyn Nets?

Is Stephen Witt, street musician and author of a book rather favorable to the arena and its developer, up next?

In the new Albany Power 100 list, several with Atlantic Yards ties

Many of those listed in City & State's Albany Power 100 List are predictable: the Governor, and the leaders of the Assembly and Senate. Note, however, several with Atlantic Yards ties:
  • 6. Secretary to the Governor Lawrence Schwartz (a sometime gatekeeper on Atlantic Yards issues)
  • 17. Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO, Partnership for New York City (a reliable AY backer)
  • 24. Judy Rapfogel, Chief of Staff to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (whose son works for Forest City Ratner and husband's charity benefited from a Barclays Center concert)
  • 33. Gary LaBarbera, President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (signed the agreement allowing for lower union wages at the modular factory)
  • 51. Suri Kasirer, President, Kasirer Consulting ("Perhaps the most successful lobbyist in New York City and one of the most successful in Albany," her firm works for Forest City Ratner)

Only a segment of bars/restaurants near arena seem to benefit from Nets fans

From Prospect Heights Patch, Few Barclays-Area Eateries See Bump from Nets Games: Restaurants with the right location and menu have benefitted greatly from the NBA team's move to Brooklyn. But most report no change.:
Brooklyn Nets fans poured into Prospect Heights Monday night for the second game of the NBA playoffs, but most didn’t stop by area businesses on their way into the arena.
The promise of an influx of hungry ticket holders was part of the argument arena proponents used to push for the Barclays Center. And before concerts the new customers have materialized with restaurants as far away as Clinton Hill and Carroll Gardens reporting a bump in diners.
But the picture is different on Nets game nights when only a selection of large sports bars and a handful of casual restaurants near the arena say they’re seeing an influx of Nets fans.
This is consistent with previous reports; I'd note that a promised cross-marketing program doesn't seem fully launched, with information on the arena app but not website. After all, there's a tension between promoting area businesses and keeping the food and drink traffic in-house.

The Happy Arena? Workers are friendly, but their compensation is limited and turnover is regular

In its ongoing look at the wonderfulness of the Barclays Center, regularly visiting Section 15, the New York Times Sports section on 4/22/13 offered Section 15: The Happy Arena : "Wonder why everyone is so friendly at the Barclays Center? Ushers went through hospitality training from Disney professionals."



It's true that the workers are friendly, if not always fully informed.

They're also on a part-time schedule, with no benefits. No one whose main job is an usher can afford to live on their own, and some roommate situations would be tough. (If they live with parents, well, that could work.)

So there's surely pain behind that friendliness. There's been lots of turnover.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting: May 7

I can't say that the mention in this blog this morning started the process, but after asking publicly about the next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting, I later got a group message from Derek Lynch of Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards, announcing that the meeting would be May 7.

That marks a three-month gap, rather than the previously committed bimonthly schedule.

The message
To members of the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee,
The next Quality of Life Committee meeting will be held on:
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
@ 6:30pm
YWCA Community Room
30 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY, 11217 
This meeting is a forum for representatives from the community and civic groups to engage Empire State Development, Forest City Ratner Companies and Barclays Center operators regarding issues affecting the quality of life for residents and businesses in close proximity to the arena.
Please remember to designate only 1 representative from your organization to directly participate and RSVP that individual’s name and contact information to me, Derek Lynch, at dlynch@esd.ny.gov.
In addition, please email me items that you would like to see discussed at the next meeting by Friday, May 3rd.
What should be on the agenda? Surely more discussion of vehicles parking and idling on streets near the arena, but also other issues, such as episodes of bass leaking from the arena. And likely there will be some discussion of the potential impact of a proposed Business Improvement District.

The meeting is open to the public and press for observation but those participating must be designated from invited groups.

Two public meetings May 2 regarding proposed Barclays Center-area Business Improvement District

[Update April 30: These meetings have been postponed.]

A message from the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, via CB 6, announces two public meetings on May 2 regarding the formation of a new Business Improvement District to serve the area around the Barclays Center, nearby malls, and Brooklyn Academy of Music.
We invite you to attend a meeting regarding the formation of a Business Improvement District. The meeting's purpose is to provide a basic introduction of BIDs and proposed services and boundaries. This meeting will be a key opportunity to receive valuable feedback from stakeholders. We invite you to attend one of two public meetings hosted by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership with the support of the Brooklyn Community Boards 2, 6 and 8, Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, NYC Council 33rd District, NYC Council 35th District and the NYC Department of Small Business Services. 
1st Public Meeting
Date: Thursday, May 2
Time: 9 to 11am
Location: Brooklyn Borough Hall - Community Room at 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 
2nd Public Meeting
Date: Thursday, May 2
Time: 6 to 8pm
Location: 80 Arts - James E. Davis Arts Building at 80 Hanson Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217 
Please confirm your attendance with Malina Tran at 718-403-1635 or MTran@downtownbrooklyn.com.

Outside the Barclays Center on the second night of playoffs: limos in "No Standing" zone, fans mostly subdued, parking and garbage problems

I stopped by the Barclays Center last night in the middle of the fourth quarter, during the second game of the Brooklyn Nets' first-ever playoff series, in which the team, after winning handily in the first game, lost 90-82 to the tough Chicago Bulls.

Though the Nets had a chance to win--assuming some quick three-point shots--and came as close as four points with four minutes left, attendees were trickling out steadily from the middle of the quarter, some with kids on a school night, others wanting to get the jump on transportation.

Two sections of the stairs to the transit hub were roped off, in an effort to slow the crowd from going downstairs. Drivers surely wanted to avoid traffic jams. Other fans streamed out with a minute or two to go, obviously (and accurately) not expecting a miracle.

From the arena plaza, you can see part of the scoreboard, but you can't see the score unless you're standing right up against the doors.

Outside the arena



As noted on Atlantic Yards Watch and in the video below that I shot, limos line up on the north side of Atlantic Avenue in the lay-by lane to wait for pick-ups. That violates a clear "no standing" zone rule and, while it's surely helpful for the VIPs lucky enough to have their vehicle among the few waiting, it penalizes others who exit the building faster.

Fans orderly, but...

I watched the crowd exit from the back of the arena on Dean Street; they were fairly subdued, neither cheering boisterously (it was a loss, after all) nor talking loudly. (The loudest group I heard were a couple of guys shouting as they exited the Q train I was on several stops into Brooklyn.)

As they exited, attendees competed with valet parking vehicles exiting from the loading dock and the adjacent above-ground Pad.

I followed the group heading to Pacific Street and immediately encountered two fans (in Nets hats) relieving themselves against the wall of a warehouse building immediately east of Sixth Avenue. They proceeded to the Newswalk parking garage two doors down to pick up their vehicle.

Continued impacts

An Atlantic Yards Watch contributor reports Illegal parking and idling at all the usual spots on 5th Avenue etc., below Flatbush Avenue (where I didn't go).

Another noted that a "pile of 20 or 30 bags of garbage has been in the satellite uplink parking lot (at the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and Dean Street] since at least Saturday." (See photo at right.) That's next to a residence.

A dissent on the food

While reviews of the arena food have been mostly positive, the Village Voice's Robert Sietsema, who focused on one vendor, disagrees strenuously, in Food at Barclays Fatty 'Cue is Really, Really Terrible.

When's the next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting? As of yet, no answer.

The Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee, which allows neighborhood groups to bring concerns regarding project-related impacts, is supposed to be meet bi-monthly. The last meeting was on February 7.

On April 15, I asked Derek Lynch of Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing Atlantic Yards and coordinating the meetings, when the next one was scheduled. No response so far.

Monday, April 22, 2013

During "Blackout in Brooklyn," the usual illegal parking and idling in the streets around Barclays Center; Pad packed with parking, idling

So, there was a frenzy inside the Barclays Center Saturday night for the first Brooklyn Nets playoff game. What about outside? As reported on Atlantic Yards Watch, there were numerous cars and limos parking or idling illegally, as well as dubious use of the "Pad" outside the loading dock on Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth avenues for idling and parking.

The total: 64 potential violations, 10 for idling, and 45 for illegal parking.

Atlantic Yards Watch's Peter Krashes summarized it as Some changes in limo behavior emerge but illegal parking and idling violations continue and provided the video below of a bus and limo idling in a bus stop on Atlantic Avenue.



AYW's summary:
Notably not a single black limo was parked in the official location designated by the Department of Transportation for TLC parking on the south side of Atlantic Avenue from 6th Avenue to Carlton Avenue. ...
The changes to black limo behavior were largely on the north side of Barclays Center. The lay-by lane on the south side of Atlantic Avenue was full from Fort Greene Place to 6th Avenue a few minutes before the end of the game. This makes sense because of the VIP exit nearby, and the many exits of the arena lining Atlantic Avenue. The north side of Atlantic Avenue from Fort Greene Place to South Portland Avenue, formerly filled with city employee cars and private cars, was largely filled with black limos and/or private cars with drivers this time around. And the dispatcher for the car service stand on Fort Greene Place stated that his cars were for both the mall and the arena.
Illegal idling/parking

One post, concerning vehicles in and around Fifth Avenue below Flatbush Avenue south of the anrea, is labeled Illegal parking and idling at all the usual spots on 5th Avenue etc. 15 cars tonight in one 15 minute period. A couple were ultimately ticketed, while a cop and a traffic enforcement agent (TEA) promised to move others, though the TEA "said that they always come back"--even to a bus stop.

Another post, focused on locations north and east of the arena, is titled Illegal parking and idling violations continue; some enforcement evident. One driver had an "ambulance service" placard, though he acknowledged he was there for the arena,

Other had a placards saying "Federal Law Enforcement" or a Police Department restricted parking permit, both legal if on official business. But a private vehicle with "NYC PBA"(Police Benevolent Association) is not actually legal.

At a bus stop on Atlantic Avenue east of the arena, a limo was next to an idling bus; their drivers claimed they'd been told by cops to park there, despite an official area across the street.

What about the Pad?

As explained in Equipment bus idles on Pad; valet parking for coaches and staff, a staff member acknowledged that a bus had been idling illegally for at least 40 minutes, and the rest of the cars outside were used for valet parking, for people such as coaches and supervisors.

Not everyone could fit.

As shown in the photo at right, a BMW with New Jersey plates was parked in satellite uplink parking lot across Sixth Avenue just north of Dean Street. Given that the car had been parked in the Pad, it apparently got nudged out by others with better timing and/or higher priority.

The Pad (see video here)--just east of the arena and separated from the Building 3 by a fence--was never announced or described as a parking area.

Then again, as once driver who works for an NBA player explained, most arenas have designated parking for players inside the facility, and that some 30 VIP vehicles (players, families of players, owners, staff) park inside the arena, entering through the loading dock and going downstairs. The spillover goes to the Pad--or, apparently, across the street.

Arena event calendar for May released; slim pickings unless playoffs continue

The Barclays Center has released the May 2013 event calendar, and it's notably slim pickings--at least unless the Nets advance in the playoffs.

Note that the arena event calendar lists May 4 as a potential first-round Nets game earlier in the day, and also lists May 31 as a concert. If the Nets make it past the first round, of course, there would be a least two more home games--but maybe not more, since they'd be playing the defending champs Miami Heat.
The April calendar, with an update

Note that April 29 is also reserved for a home playoff game, if the first-round series with the Bulls goes past four games.
 The previous version, without playoff games:


Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Blackout in Brooklyn": new hoops headquarters established or "manufactured" frenzy

From what I can tell, most reporters who attended last night's "Blackout in Brooklyn" playoffs debut for the Brooklyn Nets were impressed. The Daily News, which has a wee bit of self-interest in sponsoring the Barclays Center plaza, enthused:
New York City has a new hoops headquarters — and it’s in Brooklyn.
Overjoyed Nets fans threatened to shake Brooklyn’s Barclays Center apart with their cheers Saturday as Brooklyn marked its first professional postseason game in more than five decades.
Sporting black T-shirts and waving glow-in-the-dark wristbands that read “Blackout in Brooklyn,” a packed house screamed their lungs out as the borough’s newest sports franchise schooled the Chicago Bulls on Brooklyn hardwood etiquette with a 106-89 win.
Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times wrote:
The Nets transformed Barclays Center into a grand postseason stage, with dark T-shirts and luminous bracelets, banners and baked goods, fireworks and a drum line, one glorious self-tribute after another.
It was like a concert, Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. The arena glistened like a gemstone. All that was left, after the team’s owner, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, addressed the crowd and the lights flooded back onto the court, was a basketball game, and a fairly important one for the franchise.
But Fox Sports' Sam Gardner had gone to the Knicks-Celtics game earlier, and came away with a different take:
Now, I know what you’re saying: All NBA arenas are loud, especially during the playoffs. And, to a point, you’re right. But there’s something special about the excitement inside Madison Square Garden — something organic and undeniably real that’s hard to find in most buildings. The passion is authentic and the sound gives you goose bumps, and until you’ve experienced it, you can’t possibly know what it’s like.
And that’s a front on which the Nets crowd — at least for now — can’t possibly compare. And I know, because I was there, too.
After Anthony finished his media session at MSG at 6:41, I hopped on the 2-train to Brooklyn and got off at Atlantic Terminal around 7:10. And from the moment I walked into the billion-dollar monstrosity, I was bombarded with reminders to be excited, starting with a glowing plastic bracelet featuring the hashtag “#helloplayoffs.” When they got to their seats, fans were met with black T-shirts promoting the “blackout in Brooklyn,” and the media seats even had cookies commemorating the first playoff game at Barclays Center.
A drumline — one not unlike the Knicks’ own drumline — took the court before the game, as did the Nets’ unnerving Brooklyn Knight mascot. And finally, at 8:14, after a riveting national anthem from Nets forward Jerry Stackhouse (no, really) and an unintelligible statement from owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the game tipped off. And though the arena was loud for most of the night, the energy was somehow lacking.
Throughout the evening, deafening music thumped and the team’s dreadlocked PA announcer urged the crowd to make some noise and support their team. But it seemed cheesy and even unnecessary at times, leaving me wondering why they needed to be reminded.
By and large, the sound felt manufactured in a way I’ve never experienced at MSG, and though there were genuine moments of excitement — like the reaction afterDeron Williams’ thunderous reverse dunk with 39 seconds left in the third — the spectacle surrounding the game ultimately took away from the incredible basketball the Nets were playing on the floor. In short, it was fun, but it wasn’t a Knicks game.
Note that one commenter backs Gardner and another fervently disagrees.

Time to build

Will Leitch wrote 4/24/13, in Sports on Earth, that the fanbase needs time to build, and that's fine:
The Nets have had a perfectly acceptable first season in Brooklyn, even if you wonder if Mikhail Prokhorov is gonna freak out and fire everybody if they lose in the playoffs, and Barclays Center has been mostly full all year. It still doesn't feel like a real fanbase yet, though. There aren't a lot of old New Jersey fans who have crossed over -- though as an Arizona Cardinals fan who came with them from St. Louis, I can appreciate those who did -- and many of the fans are affluent Brooklynites just flattered their artisanal cheeses and diaper elimination communication are being recognized on a national level. (Or people who just spend the game looking for Jay-Z.)
There's no history with this team, no inherent deep connection, and the arena feels like it. Barclays Center is a lovely place to watch a game, but it's not a kinetic place to experience one yet; by design, you feel like you're watching a theater production, like you're being held at considerable remove. That can be overcome by an engaged, fiery fanbase, of course, but the Nets are too new for that. It's a tourist attraction at this point, a crowd enjoying themselves in a welcoming environment, but not banded together in a collective froth.
I've been at playoff games at both Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center this week, and, needless to say, the difference between the MSG crowd and the Barclays crowd is roughly analogous to a trash metal concert and your fourth-grader playing his recorder. Both crowds are sellouts, with every seat filled, but one fanbase has decades of built-up anticipation, of pain and Isiah and gravitas, and the other is just having a good time at a pretty building.
Nets fans will get there, just like Nationals fans will get there. The franchises have too much going for them not to eventually join the same tortured fanbases as everybody else's. But forgive me if I find myself siding with fans of the Knicks, or the Warriors, or the Orioles, the ones who have been going through this for years and hoping now, at last, is the time to break through. If the Nats and Nets don't win the way they expect to this year, it'll be good for their fans in the long run. The more you lose now, and the tougher the losses are, the better it'll feel later. Being a sports fan about pain, and release. You know, like being a human.

A look at the Barclays Center's somewhat fraught boxing venture is presented as "Fans Hope Barclays Center Will Revive Brooklyn Boxing"

The big Barclays Center news today is the Brooklyn Nets' dominating playoff opener win against the Chicago Bulls, dubbed "Beatdown in Brooklyn" by the New York Post in reference to the "Blackout in Brooklyn" theme that pervaded the arena.

But the longest single article appears on the front of the New York Times's Metropolitan section, a seemingly balanced but inherently skewed piece headlined Brooklyn Gets a Rematch: Fans Hope Barclays Center Will Revive Brooklyn Boxing.

After all, the biggest hope belongs to arena CEO Brett Yormark, who promised monthly boxing matches beginning in October, then--after having to paper the house last October with 1000 free tickets--announced the next bout in February but actually didn't have a match until March.

The gist:
Until very recently, a scene like this one — a Brooklyn boxer training at a Brooklyn gym for a big-time bout in Brooklyn — would have been impossible, but now that the Barclays Center, on Flatbush Avenue, is midway through its maiden season of organizing fights, local gyms in the borough are again alive with the thump and sweat of hometown fighters readying themselves for hometown crowds.

“When there’s someplace in your own backyard where you can fight for friends and family and people you grew up with, it means a lot,” said Cleavon Evans, the dreadlocked co-owner of the Starrett City club. “Every fighter wants to fight for their own, and for us in Brooklyn, Barclays changed that game.”

Brooklyn’s boxing history reaches back to 1882, before the Brooklyn Bridge opened, when John L. Sullivan knocked out Jimmy Elliott with a blow to the throat at the Washington Park stadium, which is long defunct. The borough has birthed its share of champions — Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe among them.

But the fight game in New York, and especially in Brooklyn, has been moribund for decades...
Here's the way the article papers over Yormark's excess expectations:
Though Mr. Yormark has not yet met his initial promise of a night of boxing every month, the Garcia fight (accompanied by three more title matches that night) was followed in March by a second night of fights... On April 27, Mr. [Danny] Jacobs will fight at yet a third “show,” as boxing promoters call their competitions, whose main event will pit Zab Judah, another son of Brooklyn, in a title fight against the returning Mr. Garcia. A fourth show has been scheduled for June at which Paul Malignaggi, a welterweight from Bensonhurst, will meet the rising star Adrien Broner.
Golden Gloves move--why?

The article mentions that, "[t]his year, for the first time since 1927, [Madison Square Garden] did not host the finals of the citywide Golden Gloves amateur competition, which took place Thursday and Friday nights at the Barclays Center."

The main reason suggested below in the article is that the Brooklyn arena charges promoters far less. But couldn't it also be because the unnamed sponsor, the New York Daily News, moved the competition to the Barclays Center, where it sponsors the associated plaza?

Mismatched fights?

The article does note:
After the arena’s first show in October, Sports Illustrated published an article condemning Golden Boy for arranging mismatched bouts on its opening night.
...Inherent in this criticism were the conflicts that all promoters face in staging fights. It is intrinsic to boxing that matchmakers need, on one hand, to put on bouts competitive enough to engage the fickle interest of an audience, but still need, on the other, to improve the records, and thus the market values, of the fighters they are contractually responsible for promoting. 
Who's to blame?
Mr. Yormark said he had struck the deal with Golden Boy because neither he nor his staff was expert in organizing fights. He has concerned himself instead with the business end of Barclays’ boxing program...

His critics, however, have said his decision to cede control of his boxing shows to Golden Boy has consistently resulted in uninspiring fights. 
If so, and some of those critics are pretty legit, maybe the headline should be along the lines of "Fans Look at Barclays Center Boxing with Wariness and Hope."

A different way

After all, the Barclays Center could be doing more:
Robert Goodman, who managed in-house boxing at the Garden from 1985 to 1994, said that one chief aspect of his program was a continuing effort to groom young boxers from neighborhoods around New York with an eye toward having them fight one day on the professional stage...
“I think that Barclays’ fans may suffer in the end, because as it stands, no one is developing local fighters,” Mr. Goodman said. “And the only way to do that is to have control of your own department and your own local talent.”
Still, the last word goes to local boxer Paulie Malignaggi, seen by some experts as a sacrificial lamb, who:
responded to this slight while sitting in Portobello’s, his manager’s pizzeria, a Brooklyn Nets cap cocked in homeboy fashion on his head.

“My name is synonymous with Brooklyn,” he said. “I grew up in Brooklyn. I learned to box in Brooklyn. I was never anybody’s favorite. I never got the ‘let’s-set-Paulie-up-to-be-the-next-star’ fight. I’ve been an opponent for other people’s stars before and now it’s happening again.”

Still, in true Brooklyn fashion, he said it was enough to be fighting at the Barclays Center for a hometown crowd.

“Everybody wants to rep their hood and at this point I can’t knock it. Hey, man,” he added, “it’s boxing.”
Yormark is surely pleased with the cross-marketing. It's probably in Malignaggi's contract.