Sunday, June 30, 2013

AY Watch: Concert noise from Bruno Mars penetrates neighborhood; sunny news on concert and team from the Daily News

Apparently the Barclays Center still hasn't solved the problem of concert noise penetrating the neighborhood, source of a $3200 fine and enduring complaints.

Atlantic Yards Watch cites a 311 complaint regarding the Bruno Mars concert last night and adds:
Also received 3 calls:
1) area 6th & Dean St, "we have no air conditioning so we have to keep our windows open and the music is so loud"
2) area 4th Ave & Dean, "please have them stop"
3) area mid-block Dean, "LOUD MUSIC AGAIN?
Meanwhile, the news from the New York Daily News, sponsor of the Barclays Center plaza, continues to be sunny.

Consider a review of last night's Bruno Mars show, Bruno’s shining ’70s show just Mars-velous during NYC stop. (Of course no one noticed, as posted on Atlantic Yards Watch, that pesky tour bus idling for more than two hours. Or the noise problem)

And the Nets

Then there was the two-byline article yesterday, Brooklyn fans buzzing about newest Nets: Fans outside Barclays Center were excited about the NBA trade that brings Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics to the Brooklyn Nets. Four people were interviewed; three used words like "exciting" and "explosive," while one criticized adding "old men."

Ratner honored by New York Board of Rabbis as "mensch of the year." Oh.

From the New York Post, 6/21/13, Ace is honored:
A Yiddish-Spanish word was created when the New York Board of Rabbis honored Panamanian pitcherMariano Rivera at its Humanitarian Awards at Capitale this week. The Yankee was named “el menscho of the year” — a term coined for just the occasion — while developer Bruce Ratner was named “mensch of the year.” The event drew more than 400, including Robinson Cano, Joba Chamberlain, Roy White, Timothy Cardinal Dolanand John Starks. Michael Kay emceed, and special recognition was given to Bruce Mosler and Joseph Coppotelli. James Orphanides and Michael Stolerco-chaired the evening. As part of the honor, Mariano will visit Israel with the board’s Joseph Potasnik.
How exactly does that square with that front-page New York Times profile of Ratner last September, headlined Nets Helped Clear Path for Builder in Brooklyn, which cited "his reputation for promising anything to get a deal, only to renegotiate relentlessly for more favorable terms"? Or the Culture of Cheating?

The press release

The Jewish Voice posted what appeared to be a press release, NY Board of Rabbis Host 2013 Gala Dinner
The New York Board of Rabbis (NYBR) honored New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera and Forest City Ratner Companies Executive Chairman Bruce Ratner during the NYBR Humanitarian Awards Dinner at Capitale on Monday evening June 17. Over 400 people from all segments of society were in attendance to pay homage to the awardees.

...The evening featured an exclusive VIP cocktail reception with Rivera and Ratner and all net proceeds from the event benefitted the NYBR and the Mariano Rivera Foundation.

...Ratner started his New York-based development company in 1985 and has become one of the largest real estate developers in the country. In the past 25 years, he has developed 44 ground-up projects in the New York City area including residential apartment buildings in New York by Gerhy and The New York Times Building. Forest City Ratner Companies’ MetroTech Center, a nine-building corporate campus in Brooklyn, employs 18,000 workers and is often credited with spurring the renaissance of downtown Brooklyn. Most notably, Ratner is the majority owner and developer of Barclay Center Arena, which opened in 2012 and is the home of the Brooklyn Nets, the first professional sports team in Brooklyn since the Dodgers left in 1957.

Ratner currently serves on a number of boards including Weill Cornell Medical College, the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Nets, first "Situationist team," boost chances to win title; was it really the arena that drew new stars (and is opposition "another story, entirely"?)

So, a lot of people are excited about, as the Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring wrote, Can Brooklyn Actually Win a Title?, noting that the trade of Boston's Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry "upstaged an otherwise entertaining NBA Draft" and boosted their odds to third-best, from 40-1 to 10-1.

Only the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, younger and deeper, are better odds. Garnett and Pierce, Herring points out, add shooting prowess to punish defenses that attempt to double-team the existing Nets scorers of Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, and Deron Williams, and the newcomers also will add defense.

Herring allows that there are questions about chemistry and health, given three starters over 32, plus a potential mismatch with new coach Jason Kidd's fast-paced style. And while there's no real answer whether the Nets can win a title, he concludes:
The Nets are getting the attention they've always wanted, and the title conversation now includes them.
The Post's Mike Vaccaro was less convinced by those odds:
But will the three new imports, with all those miles logged, coming off seasons marked by declines ranging from notable to steep, really close the significant gap between the neighborhood where the Nets and Knicks both loitered last year — solidly upper middle-class — and the penthouse-dwelling Heat and the other two residents of the East’s gated community, the Pacers and Bulls?
Still, that made both the front and back cover of the paper.

The first Situationist team

In The Classical, David Roth penned Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and the Brooklyn Nets Show, suggesting that the "loud and public and noteworthy way" the Nets were aiming for a championship with "a roster that looks notably more like a successful fantasy basketball team from the 2009-10 season than a contemporary NBA team."

While other teams try to grow craftily, the Nets are bold, having "succeeded in creating a spectacle that, however successful or even worth-watching its team-shaped component becomes on the court, is at least a spectacle," embracing "their truest identity as A Big Entertainment Thing," now "the NBA's most purely Situationist team."

Situationist? That Wikipedia link points to:
The situationists believed that the shift from individual expression through directly lived experiences, or the first-hand fulfillment of authentic desires, to individual expression by proxy through the exchange or consumption of commodities, or passive second-hand alienation, inflicted significant and far-reaching damage to the quality of human life for both individuals and society.
Hiking ticket prices

Radio analyst Jeff Van Gundy, according to NetsDaily, said that "Nets ownership put personnel for their team way ahead of profits. And, if you’re a fan, you have to understand how rare that is and you have to be excited about the opportunity."

Well, maybe.
From NetsDaily

As one fan wrote on NetsDaily (right), his $55/seat tickets were supposed to go up to $60, but after the trade instead went to $79, a 43.6% increase.

Fan excitement

NetsDaily editor and uber-fan "Net Income" (aka Bob Windrem), even tweeted that it would be "#orgasmic" for the new players to be introduced while coach Kidd's jersey was honored. I gave it a couple of exclamation points.

In an Off-Season report, he noted:
Farewell to Marshon Brooks, Kris Humprhies, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans and Kris Joseph. With Hump's departure, there's only one player left from the 2009-10 Nets, the 12-70 debacle. But, on the other hand, Lawrence Frank and Roy Rogers are back!
As Seinfeld said, you're just rooting for the clothes.

Local disillusion

"The fight is not over. I can watch Kevin Garnett on TV. I'm still not going to Barclays Center," said the Rev. Clinton Miller of Brown Memorial Baptist Church, last night at a candidates' forum for the 35th Council District.

It's notable that Miller was tougher on Atlantic Yards than the candidates, none of whom expressed support but mostly treated it as a done deal. (I'll have more on the candidates, and the forum, in a future post.)

Did the arena lure stars?

New York Times sports columnist Harvey Araton heaps all the praise on the arena that "first and foremost" drew the Celtics' stars, in Nets’ N.B.A. Star, Barclays Center, Lures Others, suggesting that " Barclays Center’s one-year-old shadow has grown quickly, encroaching now on the prime Midtown real estate of Madison Square Garden."

He notes that NBA Commissioner David Sterm "knew little of the transportation hub and gentrifying neighborhoods around the proposed site," and players knew even less.

Garnett, visiting on Christmas Day for a game, called the arena “phenomenal.” New coach Kidd praised the arena at his introductory press conference: “It’s not East Rutherford.”

Adds Araton:
He did not have to explain that Thursday night when he pitched the deal to Garnett, who had to agree to waive his no-trade clause. Opposition to its construction notwithstanding — and that is another story, entirely — the arena and its proximity to Manhattan sold itself to those who played in it.
Barclays became the Nets’ brightest star, pulling in Pierce and Garnett.
While the headline's conclusory, Araton adds an additional factor in the penultimate sentence. Barclays is a shiny (on the inside) new arena, but it's also located in the country's media capital, and that has to be equally key.

Also, the Nets had the parts to be competitive. I suspect those factors were equally important to the players' decision than the "star" new arena.

Opposition "another story"? Nah

Note how a sports columnist can call arena opposition "another story, entirely." Actually, it's all linked, because if the Barclays Center is the product of the Culture of Cheating, then that persists.

Araton, in a version of the column posted online, wrote:
They would continue to be a laughingstock, on New Jersey landfill or over rail yards in Brooklyn.
My response, on Twitter:

That got changed, belatedly, to "on New Jersey landfill at the rail yards in Brooklyn," which omitted the crucial word "or."

Even "at rail yards" is incorrect, because, as Atlantic Yards opponents and others better informed than most sports writers pointed out, only half of the arena site is a piece of the railyard, while the rest used private and public property, including public streets.

Friday, June 28, 2013

In push for title, Nets trade for aging stars Garnett, Pierce; ticket prices said to be rising

Via Twitter
Some two weeks after hiring surprising new coach Jason Kidd, the former New Jersey Nets star and retiring New York Knick, the Brooklyn Nets yesterday announced a blockbuster trade.

Assuming the trade goes through, the Nets will gain aging Boston Celtics stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (37 and 36 respectively next season) plus aging sixth man Jason Terry, in exchange for three first-round draft picks and five players, including forgotten starter and "Core Four" member Gerald Wallace (remember those ads, "Offseason Fisherman"?), one-dimensional rebounding ace Reggie Evans, tabloid fave Kris Humphries, and two other lesser lights.

The consensus: the Nets are short-term contenders, adding the toughness they lacked when losing to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, and bringing them closer to majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov's pledge of a championship by 2015. And the Nets may emerge as the city's top team.

If Prokhorov will have to pay an enormous luxury tax--ultimately perhaps $84 million, according to the Times--well, he's rich, and the value of his Nets investment has already skyrocketed, as noted by Nets Daily.

Reaping new revenue

As Stefan Bondy reported in the Daily News, the new team configuration may soon be reflected in season ticket prices:
Via Twitter
A Barclays Center ticket rep seized the chance Thursday afternoon, warning prospective season-ticket holders that prices will hike in a foreshadowing email.
“If that happens, there is a very good chance prices go up as soon as tomorrow morning,” read an email obtained by The News. “I would strongly recommend securing before night’s end.”
Another email from a Barclays Center ticket manager read, “If indeed a high profile trade is consummated, all Full Season Prices will increase.”
ESPN columnist Ian O'Connor wrote:
But Prokhorov and his basketball man, [GM Billy] King, chased all of the above with a relentlessness required of a team trying to make a dent in the world's noisiest marketplace. And of course that was a part of this, too, the Nets' realization that the novelty of Brooklyn and their new digs, the Barclays Center, wasn't going to carry the day in Year 2. They needed to improve the product, and improve it they did.
Topping the Knicks

O'Connor added:
No, it isn't a great shot [to beat the Miami Heat], not with LeBron James at the height of his otherworldly powers, and not with Pat Riley promising to keep his band together for another tour or two. But it is a shot. The new Nets are right there with the improving Indiana Pacers (adding Danny Granger) and the improving Chicago Bulls (adding Derrick Rose), and that's a claim that can't be made by the neighboring New York Knicks.
The Post's Steve Serby wrote:
Unless [Amare] Stoudemire’s body can defy the odds and hold up, unless J.R Smith stays within striking distance of the 40-40 Club and proves Rihanna wrong, unless Tim Hardaway Jr. is at least half the player his old man used to be, you absolutely can make the case the Nets are now a better team on paper than the Knicks.
Still, as Will Leitch wrote in Sports On Earth, the Knicks fan base still rules:
• If you were at Barclays Center for any of the Knicks-Nets games this season you already knew this, but Knicks fans rather obviously outnumbered Nets fans. They were a ton louder too. And the cheer when Tim Hardaway Jr. was selected was the biggest non-Stern-related noise of the night.
Some cautions

Kelly Dwyer in Ball Don't Lie was perplexed, suggesting the Celtics still had too much payroll to rebuild. As for the Nets, he was skeptical:
They’re way over the luxury tax line, which means the team isn’t allowed by the NBA to compete with other franchises for players looking to play for salary cap exceptions, and they can’t engineer sign-and-trade deals to add depth while dealing out one of their massively compensated players. Pierce’s contract may run out after next season, but Garnett stipulated that he’d only waive his no-trade clause if the Nets guaranteed to pick up the team option on his contract for 2014-15. All while Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez alone make more than $201 million combined between now and 2017.
...It’s also hard to call this a “bad” trade for the Nets, because they’ll definitely improve, they weren’t getting out of their salary cap hell anyway and it’s not our money they’re spending. Still, if guard C.J. Watson opts out of his deal, the Nets will be on the books for nearly $97 million in payroll next year (with $80 million in luxury tax bills on top of that), with only nine players on the roster, and that includes two players (Tornike Shengailia, and Tyshawn Taylor) that you’ve never heard of.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

As City Council Committees limit Madison Square Garden to 10-year permit, a provisional big win for Barclays Center

Well, there was a nice puff-piece on Fox Business yesterday, Madison Square Garden’s $1B Transformation, which cited the company's stock rise and quoted CEO Hank Ratner saying "we'll get through the special permit process, and life will go on as we know it."

Actually, however, it was a very tough day for MSG, which was unable to convince two City Council committees to let it operate in perpetuity, as Crain's reported in City Council committees limit the Garden to 10 years.

That doesn't mean MSG will be gone, because plans to renovate Penn Station must find funding, but it was, as Crain's suggested "a huge win to preservationists" or, rather, those like the Municipal Art Society and the Regional Plan Association who want a new Penn Station.

And it's a provisional big win for the Barclays Center, which not only may see rival MSG hamstrung by a relocation--though watch who ends up paying for it--but also might emerge, at least for a while, as the city's leading arena.

Does that give an edge to the Barclays Center in its competition with MSG for the 2015 NBA All-Star Game? It surely gives the Brooklyn arena more positive buzz, though the Manhattan arena is better located in terms of hotels and other nightlife.

Not 15 years, but 10

Crain's reported:
Earlier, the City Planning Commission called for a 15-year term on the permit. But Ms. Quinn, following the lead of the activists and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, reduced the term to 10 years.
In a letter announcing her position last week, Ms. Quinn declared, “Given the uniqueness of the site, with the arena sitting above the most heavily trafficked transit hub in the city, as well as the nation, a term for the permit is warranted. Moreover, the findings associated with the Special Permit are important and need to be reviewed more regularly than the 15-year period approved by the City Planning Commission last month.”
...Other changes to the permit include the elimination of a loophole that would have allowed the arena to strike a deal with the three railroads for infrastructure improvements only to be approved by the City Planning Commission. Such a deal would have extended the permit indefinitely.
MSG did get the opportunity to use new electronic billboards and two additional electronic signs

Mayoral candidates split

In Rebuilding Penn Station Becomes Issue in Mayor’s Race, the Times reported that Democrats Quinn, Bill de Blasio and John Liu support moving the Garden, while the company's resistance is supported by leading Republican candidate Joe Lhota (a former MSG executive) and Democrat Bill Thompson, who "has tried to position himself as the pro-business candidate in a crowded Democratic field."

The Times noted:
Last winter, civic activists from the Regional Plan Association and the Municipal Art Society decided it was time to put Penn Station back in the public spotlight, after discovering that the Garden had to apply to extend its special permit. They expected to use the permit process to build publicity, but few of them expected it to become an issue in the mayor’s race.
Perhaps they didn't expect that Times architecture critic Michael Kimelman would make the issue a crusade.

What's needed: federal money

The Times acknowledges that the vote does not necessarily mean change:
But even the most ardent advocates for a new Penn Station concede that little will happen unless both the mayor and the governor take the unusual step of agreeing to make it a priority and go to Washington for the money.
“None of these things happen unless there is leadership at the top,” said Vin Cipolla, the president of the Municipal Art Society. “If the mayor is truly committed to seeing this through, then the probability goes up.”
Note that long-serving Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is a big ally of MSG, so any assistance from Albany may have a rough road, as long as Silver remains in office.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In Crain's list, Forest City's Gilmartin judged 16th most powerful woman in NY; others, including BAM head, have AY ties (& what about the BAM-arena collaboration?)

Crain's New York Business this week published its list of the 50 Most Powerful Women, several with ties to Atlantic Yards and Forest City Ratner.

Notably, new Forest City CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin was ranked 16, up from 35 in 2011:
MaryAnne Gilmartin, 49, became one of the highest-ranking executives in New York real estate development when she was promoted in April to chief executive of Forest City Ratner.
Among her responsibilities, she oversees the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards development project, which includes Barclays Center. Lately, Ms. Gilmartin has pushed the company in a new direction, pioneering the use of modular construction in the city. Ms. Gilmartin is hoping to not only use the time- and money-saving technique for the 15 residential buildings slated for the Atlantic Yards, but also to turn the company's growing capabilities in the method into an assembly line for developers across the city.
Success would help the 2,573-employee Forest City Ratner build on the $1.1 billion in revenue it earned in 2012.
Note that those numbers are (more or less) for parent Forest City Enterprises, rather than FCR.

Also of note were people who have advocated for, worked for, or partnered with developer Forest City Ratner:
  • Patricia Harris, the city's first Deputy Mayor and Chair and CEO of the Bloomberg Family Foundation, ranked 4 (unchanged).
  • Mary Ann Tighe, Chief executive, New York tristate region, of CBRE and the first female chair of the Real Estate Board of New York, at 6 (down from 1)
  • Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO, Partnership for New York City, at 8 (up from 9)
  • Christine Quinn, Speaker New York City Council and mayoral candidate, at 9 (up from 10)
  • Pam Brier, President and chief executive, Maimonides Medical Center, at 30 (down from 28)
  • Amanda Burden, Director and chair, Department of City Planning and City Planning Commission, at 38 (down from 34)
  • Karen Brooks Hopkins, President, Brooklyn Academy of Music, at 42 (no ranking in 2011)
  • Suri Kasirer, President, Kasirer Consulting, New York City’s highest-grossing lobbyist, at 46 (unchanged)
  • Patricia Lynch, President, Patricia Lynch Associates, the state’s second-highest-grossing lobbyist, and a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, at 49 (unchanged)
An AY reference

There was only one explicit Atlantic Yards reference, regarding BAM's Brooks Hopkins:
This spring, the 61-year-old traveled to Siberia after she got a $1 million commitment from Russian billionaire and Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov to start a cultural exchange program. The Nets’ arena bolsters Brooklyn’s allure, but BAM’s expansive offerings are the borough’s core as an arts destination.
What about that BAM-arena booking?

Note that one other connection between arts venue and arena, a much-promoted plan to have BAM book performances at the Barclays Center, has not yet come to fruition.

The Times reported in a 6/30/11 exclusive:
The Barclays Center, the 18,000-seat arena at the heart of the project, will host performances by artists selected by the Brooklyn Academy of Music in a programming alliance between the two neighboring institutions, their directors said. The collaboration will include three or four shows a year and allow the academy to bring to Brooklyn work that would not fit into its theaters — the largest of which has 2,000 seats — with costs underwritten by the arena.
Now there's still time in the arena's first year for BAM to book shows, but they only have three months left.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Shades of 2007? Another 421-a carve-out to developers generates outrage

Thanks to some investigation by the Metropolitan Council on Housing, which prompted coverage in the New York Daily News and by New York Times columnist Michael Powell, we now know more about a January giveaway to developers worth some $50 million to the largest project.

Note that this 421-a "carve-out" is worth far less than the "carve-out" in 2007 legislators gave developer Forest City Ratner regarding the Atlantic Yards project, wroth $150-$200 million.

The Daily News article, NY lawmakers mandate massive tax breaks for millionaires’ Manhattan apartments, was published 6/18/13:
The millionaires buying apartments in a soaring tower rising on 57th St. will get more than sweeping views of Central Park: They’ll also be eligible for massive city tax breaks.
So will the homeowners and builders of four other luxury Manhattan condo and rental developments.
Language quietly inserted into a bill that sailed through the state Legislature singled out the five developments to make them eligible for tax breaks — which could cost the city tens of millions of dollars in property taxes, the Daily News has learned.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), defended the tax breaks, saying the projects would create jobs and boost the economy.
“These projects were ready to go,” he said.
But Golden could not say who selected the five projects for special treatment. “I’m not sure where they came from,” he said.
And the Assembly sponsor, Keith Wright (D-Manhattan), said he knew little about the tax breaks.
“These five properties — it was important that they benefit from the piece of legislation probably, and I don’t know why, because some of the folks in the Senate wanted them to be included.”
The developers of four of the projects, their relatives and affiliated companies gave $1.5 million to various state campaign committees during 2008-12 — including $440,962 last year, records show.
So it all seems to hinge on Golden, who's "not sure where they came from. He's known for his ties to Forest City, which is not one of the five developers in this case. The leading one is Extell, Forest City's belated rival for the Vanderbilt Yard bid in 2005, and in that case the relative white knight.

Taking on Extell

Today, Gotham columnist Powell writes the more pungent Luxe Builders Chase Dreams of Property Tax Exemptions:
The latest evidence that our developers scour sidewalks for pennies might be found at the 90-story ziggurat known as One57, with his-and-her bathrooms, super deep freeze, titanium-reinforced views that reach to the Arctic, or at least Putnam County.
...Seven years ago, the New York State Legislature ruled out tax breaks for Midtown Manhattan developments unless they included affordable units; reformers noted reasonably that there was no shortage of construction cranes and fortunes to be had in that neighborhood. In all, 150,000 units in New York City receive the 421-a property tax abatements, for $1.1 billion in lost revenue for the city.
...Mr. Barnett and four princeling developers joined the Real Estate Board of New York last year, spreading a thick green carpet of cash for politicians, at least $1.5 million. (To peruse their donation lists is to glory in nonpartisan giving: the governor, the attorney general, the state party organizations that have proved so corrupt of late, and any politician, Republican or Democrat, who possessed the simple wit to create a “Friends of ... ” committee — all are awash in the developers’ cash.)
...In January, State Senator Martin J. Golden, Republican of Brooklyn, and Assemblyman Keith Wright, Democrat of Manhattan, attached a gilded little 421-a “carve-out” to the underside of a much-needed housing bill for New York City. Everyone voted for it. Just like that, Mr. Barnett’s development earned a property tax exemption worth at least $50 million, maybe much more, over the next 10 years.
Powell adds to the story by querying Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who unsuccessfully tried to retroactively extend tax breaks for converted lofts.

“Was this proposed tax break for these properties a good thing or not? I can’t say,” Lentol responded. “I don’t have enough knowledge to say it’s a good thing or bad thing.”

That's our legislature, folks.

The Met Council report

The Met Council press release, REPORT: 421-a A PRODUCT OF DEVELOPER CASH
According to a report released today by the Met Council on Housing, the 421-a tax giveaway was the product of Albany’s dysfunctional culture, which allows virtually unlimited cash from wealthy real estate developers.
Key Findings:
Combined, developers of four of the five luxury buildings gave at least $440,962 to PACs, state offices, and political par­ties in 2012 alone. (After an exhaustive search, we were not able to obtain data for the developer of the fifth building.)
Governor Cuomo, who had to sign the 421-a legislation, re­ceived $150,000 from the four developers in 2012. He was the biggest recipient of cash from these developers last year.
Contributions from Extell Development Company and its princi­pals, owners of One57, accounted for $229,262 of the 2012 total. Extell has given a whopping $771,436 to state committees and campaigns since 2005, spent $74,500 lobbying New York City on One57 alone and spent tens of thousands of dollars more lobbying the city and state to get new permits for its crane, among other issues.
Contributions to party committees, which benefit the most powerful legislators who control the movement of legislation, were also sizable: Republican Party committees received $53,000 and Democratic Party committees received $34,000 from the four developers in 2012.
Overall, these four companies gave more than $1.5 million ($1,531,531) to state elected officials, political parties and real-estate PACs between 2008 and 2012.
From the report:
That a handful of real-estate developers were able to win such a huge giveaway is a reflection of their outsized influence and just how broken the current campaign finance system is. Even legislators who have a long history of favoring the expansion of affordable housing voted for the bill, since it contained items they favored. But the 421-a tax breaks went beyond the typical horse-trading in the legislature.
..These tax breaks represent millions of dollars that the city has lost. The money could have been used for real housing needs, like rent subsidies for the more than 50,000 people sleeping in homeless shelters or for the repair of dilapidated apartment buildings. The 421-a program cost the City $755 million in 2010 in lost real property tax revenue, according to the Pratt Center for Community Development.5

Forest City Ratner chosen as master developer for first phase of Cornell's Roosevelt Island tech campus (updated)

It's a very good week for Forest City Ratner. Not only does new CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin get ranked the 16th most powerful woman in New York City by Crain's New York Business (up from 35 in 2011), Forest City was chosen by Cornell University as the master developer for the first two buildings on Cornell University's Roosevelt Island engineering campus.

The campus, known as Cornell Tech, may be the most important legacy of the Bloomberg administration, assuming it pays off as projected.

Forest City would build and own the second building, which would house private-sector tenants, while it would build but not own the first building, to be used for academic purposes, according to Crain's New York Business. The academic building would be 150,000 square feet and the office tech building would be 200,000 square feet.

Unanswered in the coverage and press release was how Forest City was chosen (was there any nudge from the mayor's office? any bidding?) and how the buildings would be financed.

Update Tuesday 1 pm: Cornell tells me:
There was a competitive process in response to an RFP issued by Cornell to qualified developers.
Buildings will be funded through private donations and investment from development partners.
Presumably Cornell will be able to draw on endowment and gift funds, among other sources. But Cornell already has nearly free land, a promise of $100 million in city subsidies, a promise for help in raising funds, and p.r. assistance, as stated in the RFP for the overall project, bottom.

I don't think the response rules out EB-5 funding. As I wrote in December 2011, the RFP listed the EB-5 immigrant investor program as part of a suite of potential economic development benefits, including tax-exempt financing (see Appendix E of RFP). Forest City has wide experience in using EB-5 funds via the New York City Regional Center for Atlantic Yards.

A fee developer relationship

Though Cornell didn't respond initially to my queries, the university did answer a few from Roosevelt Islander Online, which reported that financial terms are being finalized and Forest City would own the corporate co-location building and be responsible for leasing the space, with Cornell committing to be an anchor tenant essentially:
On the rest of the first phase FCRC would have a fee developer relationship, overseeing development of the first academic building, open space and infrastructure.What is not widely known about the Cornell NYC Tech project is that it is not yet a done deal. Although NYC has approved the Cornell NYC Tech ULURP application, Cornell NYC Tech must still reach an agreement with the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC).
The press release

According to Real Estate Weekly, which published the press release,
Cornell NYC Tech today announced a major advancement in its effort to bring industry and academia together on its Roosevelt Island campus with plans to develop its first “corporate co-location” building. This building will house a mix of companies at the heart of the campus, facilitating the interaction between academia and industry that is central to Cornell Tech’s mission. On Thursday, Cornell University’s Board of Trustees approved the plan to move forward with Forest City Ratner Companies as the developer of this building, subject to finalizing plans and terms. Forest City Ratner would also act as master developer, overseeing development of the first academic building, the open space and related infrastructure for the first phase of the campus.
“This level of private sector investment in the campus, and, upon completion of our finalizing the details, the participation of a great partner in Forest City Ratner, validates the campus’ enormous economic development potential for New York and ensures that we will have a vibrant mix of activities when the campus opens in 2017,” said Cathy Dove, Vice President of Cornell Tech. “We expect that leading-edge companies large and small will be drawn to the innovation and energy of Cornell Tech, helping to accelerate the already rapid growth of New York’s tech sector.”
...“Forest City Ratner is thrilled to partner with Cornell Tech on the creation of a world class innovative campus that will drive the growth of New York’s tech sector and economic development in the city for years to come,” said Forest City Ratner Companies President and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin. “From Metro Tech to Times Square to Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner has always bet on the growth of our great city and we couldn’t be more excited to play a part in this next exciting chapter. With the corporate co-location building Cornell Tech is charting new territory, and we look forward to exceeding expectations with an iconic architectural design by WEISS/MANFREDI.”
The award-winning architecture, landscape and urbanism firm, WEISS / MANFREDI will be the architect of the co-location building, which together with Cornell Tech’s flagship academic building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis, will launch the Cornell Tech campus.
NYC Tech Campus RFP, July 2011

From the latest Construction Alert: work on B2 tower still starting at 5:30 am on some days; also, after-hours and Saturday work

The latest bi-weekly Construction Alert, issued yesterday by Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/enabling Atlantic Yards, after preparation by Forest City Ratner, confirms that the developer is continuing to start at 5:30 a.m. every two or three days, when concrete foundation walls for the B2 tower are poured at the corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue.

The alert states:
• Continue installation of reinforcement steel for foundation walls. This activity will continue through this reporting period. There may be a possibility that this activity may be also be done on a 2nd shift (for a 2 week period), subject to DOB approval of work hours.
• Pouring concrete foundation walls will continue during this reporting period. This activity will be take place approximately every 2-3 days during the reporting period. The day of the pour there will be 8-12 concrete trucks delivering to the site during the course of the day. A separate logistics plan has been submitted and approved by the OEM for this work.
Note that the previous alert cited 25 trucks on those days.

The new alert also says the "[r]emoval of knock out panel in arena foundation wall is expected to commence during this reporting period."

As with the previous alert, this states that requests have been made to the city Department of Buildings to allow construction activities on Saturdays from 7 am until 6 pm, work until 11 pm on weekdays, limited to installing rebar in the foundation walls, and a 5:30 am start on weekdays, on days when concrete pours occur.

Unmentioned is whether the DOB actually granted those requests, though the DOB has not had a record of denying them.

No work is currently scheduled for July 4th.

LIRR Yard Activities Block 1120 & 1121
• Excavation/hauling of soil, installation of lagging and retaining wall removal will continue during this reporting period.
• Tieback/Soil Anchor installations along the south wall of the LIRR yard will begin during this reporting period. Work will begin at the east end of Block 1120 (between 6th Avenue & Carlton Avenue) and progress to the east.
• Noise and Dust mitigation procedures and monitoring will continue throughout the duration of the work
Note that the previous alert described the mitigation process in more detail.

Atlantic Yards Construction Alert 6-24-2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

Filling City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden's shoes? It should be a question in the mayoral race, but there's been little discussion

For those following the mayoral race, there have been numerous debates and forums, with much discussion of issues like stop-and-frisk, education policy, and even a highly controversial Jewish circumcision practice.

But there hasn't been much discussion--on a more granular level--of development, which is a crucial issue for a major interest group, the real estate industry, and its allies, and for the city at large.

After all, as the Times reported last month, a new political action committee, Jobs for New York, was formed by a "group of real estate executives and corporate leaders, bracing for the departure of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg... to spend up to $10 million to make sure the City Council elected this fall is friendly to business."

Amanda Burden: big shoes to fill?

So one of the big questions, which Crain's New York Business put on the agenda 5/17/13, is Who will fill Amanda Burden's shoes? New York's real estate community is already handicapping the race to replace the dynamic City Planning Commissioner, who will step down when Mayor Michael Bloomberg's term ends.

As the voice of business, Crain's would of course focus on the "real estate community" and its posture. And that makes sense: as numerous critics have observed, the Department of City Planning has more to do with rezoning than planning, which itself is steered by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. (That's another appointment to look at.)

Bloomberg did change one important aspect of the balance. Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, told Crain's, "Before, it was standard practice not to initiate a zoning change unless a developer was willing to pay for it." That's because the rezonings--including upzonings that increase development rights and downzonings that no developer would pay for--have been far more sweeping.

Who's on the list?

Crain's reported:
Names being floated by the real estate community include Vishaan Chakrabarti, a former city planner and current director of Columbia University's Center for Urban Real Estate and a partner at SHoP Architects; Regina Myer, a former city planner and current president of Brooklyn Bridge Park; and Anna Levin, a city planning commissioner, former community board chairman.
Chakrabarti's Center recently released a report calling for more dense development along the waterfront and major roads like Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and Queens Boulevard.

Levin is seen as relatively "more attuned to community concerns," according to Crain's, while Myer "has received accolades for her work on Brooklyn Bridge Park," though has used non-union labor.

Of course the decision depends on who's elected Mayor, and Michelle de la Uz, the representative on the City Planning Commission appointed by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, had apparently lost a place on his list because she voted against zoning changes on Roosevelt Island for a new technology campus. (You'd think such independence would have its value, especially since she explained her vote thoroughly.)

Other names floated include land use lawyers Ed Wallace and Melinda Katz, the latter a former Council member running for Queens Borough President.

Management skill most important?

Mitchell Moss, an urban policy professor at New York University and a former Bloomberg advisor, told Crain's, "You get the job because you know how to manage and operate," not "because you're smart."

Unmentioned: you get the job because you're loyal. Consider Burden's warmth toward plans like Atlantic Yards and skepticism of Madison Square Garden.

But whatever the reason: Burden's replacement will be the face of development in New York City in the next mayoral administration, and that matters.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Assemblyman Mosley says he's concerned about 25-year Atlantic Yards buildout, but hasn't (yet) entered the debate over the SEIS

A 6/21/13 article in Our Time Press, Assemblyman Walter Mosley Tackles Tough Issues, concludes that "he has taken hard stances on issues [including] affordable housing at Atlantic Yards."

I'm not so sure. For example, Mosley, who was elected last year to succeed Hakeem Jeffries in the 57th District, appears to be continuing his predecessor's practice of quiet diplomacy, claiming to be negotiating with state officials while not taking a stand at public forums, notably the 2/27/13 hearing on the scope for a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

In other words, Mosley could have testified or sent a press release arguing that the Draft SEIS should look at the alternative of bidding the Phase 2 site out so more developers could complete the project in the original 10-year time frame, rather than the 25-year deadline extended to developer Forest City Ratner when the project was renegotiated in late 2009..

Mosley makes some cogent points in the interview: the economy has changed, and Forest City Ratner is saving money by using modular technology. (Of course, Forest City doesn't want to build an expensive deck over the railyard until it has to.) He still has the opportunity to enter the fray when there's a hearing--likely this summer--on the Draft SEIS.

From the article

Our Time Press reports:
At the top of Mosley’s list is promised affordable housing at Atlantic Yards. Mosley sits on the Corporations and Authorities Committee. He and Committee Chairman Assemblyman Jim Brennan are in consultation with Ken Adams at Empire State Development Corp. “One of the main concerns that we have outstanding is whether or not the building affordable housing is necessary to extend to 25 years,” said Mosley, “as opposed to 10 years that was originally agreed to build the affordable housing component of this project.”

Mosley wants to know why the 15-year extension is needed given that the economy seems to be bouncing back — particularly Wall Street, the dire need for housing and the developer building module components at the Navy Yard which makes for faster building, expediting the entire process. “With all those factors in place, we don’t believe an added 15 years is necessary or will be conducive to the original demands that the community made in lieu of the agreement to build here,” said Mosley. “Clearly, the restraints that they had post-2008 when the market collapsed and the housing bubble burst are not there. That excuse is no longer afforded to them.”

Concerned that local taxpayers see a return on their subsidies for Atlantic Yards, Mosley said he doesn’t want to see people forced out due to attrition because either they are not going to be here, they’ll move or they might not be eligible because maybe their situation changed. “We want to be able to take advantage of affordable housing now,” said Mosley. “We do not want to lose sight of the purpose for why the site was even given the opportunity. It wasn’t about basketball. It wasn’t about the NBA. It wasn’t about the Nets. This is about survival for the middle class and people who want to still live in Brooklyn, who still want to raise their family here in Brooklyn. The world knows about Brooklyn. The borough president did a great job branding Brooklyn. Now it is time for the state to take care of Brooklyn.”

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Brooklynettes get a big spread in the Daily News, as arena-related promotion sucks up attention

In a recent conversation I had with a guy from a city where an arena's being built, I was asked how things changed in the public discourse before and after construction.

Before construction, I said, there was some press interest in the counter-narrative, critical questions of fairness and oversight.

After construction, I warned, there was more than enough going on at the arena--sports, concerts, new promotions--to suck up much of the press attention.

(Consider: who knew that food trucks and valet parking for bikes would get so much play?)

The Daily News comes up big

And it sure helps when one major media outlet, the New York Daily News, is entangled for business reasons, serving as sponsor of the Barclays Center plaza.

Indeed, thanks to this tweeted photo from the Brooklyn Nets' Petra Pope, we can see that the Daily News published a two-page spread with a photo of the new Brooklynettes cheerleaders.

Online, the Daily News posted a gallery of photos from the open auditions. (Has the Daily News covered the $3200 fine the Barclays Center got for excessive noise? Nope. Forest City Ratner's cheap or free land? Nope.)

Other media outlets joining in were NetsDaily and Fox 5.

The Brooklyn Paper sent a reporter to try out and, predictably, not make it. But that story made the newspaper's packed front page, as did one about the team's new coach, ex-Net star (and, most recently, Knick) Jason Kidd.

And just in case you forgot, there was a big ad featuring Kidd inside the newspaper. Note that, if season tickets start at $40/seat, they're not (yet?) making available the $25 tickets that are the new cheapest level (after one year at $15).

For an interesting take on Kidd, consider Jason Gay in the Wall Street Journal, writing 6/13/13:
The Nets can sometimes seem like a surreal franchise. This is a team whose owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, delivered his own remarks in support of Jason Kidd while announcing he did not intend to run for mayor of Moscow. The most important public face in the team's rebranding, the hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, is reportedly pulling away to focus on his nascent sports-agency business. The Nets are on their third head coach in a calendar year, clunked out of the playoffs, and yet…there's still a sense that this is the beginning. The jerseys remain cool. The sandwiches are good. But that can't be enough. Now here's Jason Kidd—said to be ready, as always, to handle the basketball.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Brooklyn Tech first high school to hold graduation at arena; $50 increase in senior dues helps pay $60,000 cost

The headline in today's Wall Street Journal is Space Constraints Send Brooklyn High School Graduating Class to New Arena, but it could have added the words "plus $60,000."

Today's graduation ceremony at the arena will cost an additional $60,000 to rent the Barclays Center. Previously, the school had to hold two graduation ceremonies in its 3,000-seat school auditorium to accommodate the 1,200 graduating seniors and their families.

The Journal reports:
This year, school officials raised student dues by $50 to help pay for the $60,000 cost of holding a ceremony at Barclays, which broke ground in 2010 three blocks away from the competitive school.
Other schools are large enough to hold their commencements in venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Apollo Theater and New York Botanical Garden. But Brooklyn Tech students have felt a connection to Barclays Center, Principal Randy Asher said. "Literally the center has grown up with the students," he said. "There's something poetic about that."
I think the Journal meant senior dues, not student dues. Senior dues packages range from $135 to $160 to $235, all including graduation ceremonies and "related expenses." If each of 1,200 seniors paid $50, that would add up to exactly $60,000.

This is the first high-school graduation at Barclays, which previously hosted graduations for Long Island University and New York University's Polytechnic Institute. 

The cost: less than once projected

The cost of the latter was not revealed, but it should be noted that $60,000, while not exactly chump change, is less than the total once projected by arena developer Forest City Ratner, as analyzed in a 2006 report to the Empire State Development Corporation by KPMG:
The average ticket prices assumed by FCRC for concerts, family shows, and other sporting events and the percentage split to the facility appear reasonable. However, the base rental rate for other events (e.g., graduations) of $62,000 plus the estimated $41,000 in event-related expenses appears to be high. Although these rates could change subject to actual negotiation with prospective users, it is likely that these rates need to be further reduced to accommodate various civic groups that cannot afford "market" rental rates, particularly given the competitiveness of the market.
Forest City later said costs would be lower.

Next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting set for July 2

The next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting will be held on:
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
@ 6:30pm
YWCA Community Room
30 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY, 11217
(Here's coverage of the meetings in May and in February.)

As stated in a message from Derek Lynch, Manager of Community/Government Relations for Empire State Development:
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[at]
In addition, please email me items that you would like to see discussed at the next meeting by Thursday, June 27th.
Among issues up for discussion, perhaps, will be the effect of arena-bound cars and limos parking/idling on residential streets, an impact left out of the recent evaluation of the Transportation Demand Management plan.

Also, as mentioned on Atlantic Yards Watch, there have been recent complaints about concert noise, trucks on residential streets, and vibrations from work on the railyard.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

From the Commercial Observer: The BID That Wasn’t: Barclays-Area Effort Dissolves, For Now

My story in the Commercial Observer, The BID That Wasn’t: Barclays-Area Effort Dissolves, For Now:
To some, it seemed like a good idea, an effort to take responsibility for the effects of Brooklyn’s biggest audience magnet. To others, it looked like overreach.
Now, plans for a business improvement district (BID) for a zone around the Barclays Center, the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls, and Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural district have been aborted without public discussion.
The reason? Organizers couldn’t figure how to spread the burden fairly on property owners, according to a letter sent yesterday to the BID steering committee and later passed on to this reporter.
For more, see the article...

The Barclays Center's off-center hockey layout will be a tougher sell than hoops (but, fans say, it's better than Quebec)

The Barclays Center, in its current incarnation, was downsized to a tight, basketball-centric design from a building aimed to accommodate both major league basketball and major league hockey.

Then arena operators got lucky, when the arena--with luxury suites, public transit access, and the opportunity to maintain a lucrative TV contract--became the best destination for the New York Islanders after Nassau Coliseum voters nixed a new arena.

Now Barclays Center operator are trying to manage expectations in anticipation of a 2015 (or sooner) move of the team. 

Islanders PointBlank on June 18 posted a photo montage of the hockey set up tweeted by the Barclays Center and wrote:
As mentioned on this blog last week, the scoreboard is off-center and looks like it is over one of the bluelines. The photo also sheds a little light on what will happen in the end zone where things get a little tight. It looks as though — unless things change — there will be no seats behind the glass on the lower level on that end (the empty section in the second tier is supposed to be like that, even for basketball games). It also seems like the upper bowl on that side will have an awfully hard time seeing the near net, but I guess we won’t know for sure until September.
A negative but pragmatic response

Many people commenting on the hockey blog (as further noted by NetsDaily and Meadowlands Matters) were negative, but others were pragmatic, saying it was the best alternative. Meadowlands Matters' John Brennan advised to wait and see til the first pre-season game.

Some of those comments on the hockey blog:
As a former season ticket holder, this is a total embarrassment. So typical Islanders, frankly. So amateur.

If the islanders announced they were moving to Quebec, the same people complaining would die for them to be playing in this setup in Brooklyn
In just looking at the photos, this hockey setup looks ridiculous. Some seats it looks like you will be staring into the ear of the person in front of you. Some sections almost look photo-shopped to squeeze in seats. Better than KC or Quebec? Sure. But before we know it this will not be our Islanders anymore. It is such a shame.
They will make income from luxury suites so basically they don't give a damn what we think or how we see the game. that's what is stopping them.
I was there for a Paul McCartney concert a coupla weeks ago. Seats in the upper level were very tight as far as legroom goes. When people tried to pass by you had to stand, which is not that unusual, BUT even standing you had to suck it all in to avoid contact. A little uncomfortable, yet not a show-stopper. As I was casing the joint out for hockey I felt that some of the upper corner seats will be disappointing...I can't see how some angles will be able to see the goalie below.
I made my first trip to Barclays last Saturday for a concert and I came away very impressed. The amenities and luxuries of a modern arena were excellent. The place looks great inside, great spots for food and drinks, and the seating area looked great. I could see the upper deck seats being a little tight in terms of height and looking down on the ice, but even so, most of the seats are tight to the floor and I could envision how loud the place will get when packed. I wish they had more room on that one end of the ice, and i do think they will create some movable bleachers to bring fans to the glass, but I'm excited for the potential. The place is also set up very well for mass transit (took only 30 min on the subway from times sq.). Everywhere you looked they were advertising the Devils/Islanders preseason game as well. Just please stay away from the blue and orange.

The average fan could care less for these luxuries. if you want to socialize, go to a bar. I rather have a hockey arena with great seating and eat McDonald's after the game. I wouldn't give Yormak and wang my money any other way.
Just giving you my experience from this past weekend. Good for you though for fighting the system. Sports are a business first and foremost, remember that.
Why do people care where the scoreboard is? Most of the clowns I see at games are looking at their 2x3 inch phone screen through 2/3 of the games anyway. Does this affect the team? Probably not. Yeah, it's a little weird not having fans behind the goalie, but that ruins your view of the team? Worry about the on-ice product, not the seating arrangement.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Details on arena plaza farmers market emerge: Wednesdays beginning July 10

A farmers market is planned to operate outside the Barclays Center on Wednesday beginning July 10 through November 27, with participants setting up on Flatbush Avenue beginning at 6 am and everything finished by 4 pm, before arena events begin.

That was the message Cathy Chambers of GrowNYC, which operates 55 farmers markets around the side, told the Transportation Committee of Community Board 2 last night, which voted to support the plan by a vote of 9-2.

There was some concern on the committee about how much the market might impede pedestrian traffic on the Flatbush sidewalk, and a question as to why the plaza itself would not be used for the market.

The answer: that might impede pedestrians, especially those entering and leaving the subway hub, even more, and it was more efficient to have the tents near the trucks. She was joined by arena Community Affairs Manager Terence Kelly.

Chris Hrones of the Department of Transportation, while not objecting to the plan, said he wanted to have colleagues review it. (The New York Police Department and Metropolitan Transportation Authority had already said they were OK with the plan, Chambers noted.)

The plan would require a modification of "No Standing" parking rules in the Flatbush Avenue lay-by lane, where some of the vendor vehicles would be parked. Others would drive to other farmers markets.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Obscured in the Barclays Center transportation report: likely 1000+ cars seek free parking on neighborhood streets; of arena-goers spending money locally, many likely come from Brooklyn

Now that Empire State Development ESD), the state agency overseeing/enabling Atlantic Yards, has belatedly made available documents regarding the Barclays Center Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, a glaring gap in the public presentation June 13 becomes clear. The gist is:

For Nets games at the Barclays Center, fewer visitors drive than expected, but most--well over 1000 cars--seek free parking on streets in neighborhoods near the arena. Such free parking is a neighborhood subsidy for drivers unwilling to pay for parking in available garages.

That's an argument for residential permit parking to deter such driving. Note that even if fewer than 1000 cars actually get free parking, and some wind up paying for parking, that still means those cars are cruising the streets rather than pre-paying and going directly to a lot.

Two other issues come clear.

First, facts in the Wall Street Journal exclusive that emerged the morning of the public presentation--that some 2,675 arena-goers spend money at local businesses before or after Nets games--deserves a significant asterisk, because it's likely a good chunk of those people are Brooklynites.

Second, though the Times reported that "[o]nly about 8 percent of fans came from New Jersey," that figure (8.3%) more precisely refers to the number whose trips to the arena began in New Jersey. On weekdays, 9.8% of Nets fans returned to New Jersey, though presumably some arrived at the arena from jobs in Manhattan.

That percentage is still far lower than predicted by a consultant hired by developer Forest City Ratner to argue that New York City and State would benefit from money spent by visitors from out-of-state.

What made TDM plan a success

Arena consultant Sam Schwartz, during his public presentation, danced around the parking issue, because his charge was getting fewer people to drive, rather than caring what happens when those come to the neighborhood.

Though backing documents were supposed to be released Friday, they weren't posted on the ESD web site until yesterday. According to a memo (below) from Schwartz deputy Dan Schack:
The overall goal of the TDM program described in the FEIS was to reduce peak hour auto traffic within 1/2 mile of the arena projected in the FEIS [Final Environmental Impact Statement] 2010 Build Condition by approximately 30%, by reducing the overall auto mode share and diverting 250 total autos to remote parking. The volume of peak hour autos generated by the arena were found to meet these goals, with approximately 40% fewer autos in the pre-game peak hour and approximately 20% fewer in the post-game peak hour than projected in the FEIS 2010 Mitigated Condition.
Although surveys found that remote parking facilities are minimally used, the combination of lower than projected auto mode share, lower overall attendance than assumed in the FEIS (which conservatively assumed an attendance of 18,000), higher vehicle occupancy, and lower peak hour percentages results in surpassing the auto trip reduction goals described in the FEIS.
As indidcated in the final slide (right) of Schwartz's presentation, the opportunity to take transit and promotion thereof contributed significantly to getting fewer people to drive.

The goal was 28.3% for weekday auto share for Nets games, but the actual statistic was 25.7%.

For weekend games, the FEIS goal was 32%, the actual figure 31.9%.

Do most drivers "pay" for parking?

However, Schwartz's statement that "Reduction of parking spaces" and "Lowered expectations for drivers" were key to reducing auto share deserve significant caveats.

There's murky evidence that the reduced spaces in the barely used on-site parking lot--and average of 160 of 541 spaces were filled for Nets games--deterred drivers. After all, those drivers didn't use the less-expensive pre-paid and remote parking either.

Moreover, his presentation provided no evidence that "Most Drivers Purchase Parking Upon Arrival," as Schwartz said in his presentation.

Though there's an online parking reservation system for 12 nearby facilities an average of only 75 drivers buy parking passes. Moreover, only a handful of drivers--averaging maybe fours bought parking at remote facilities.

"Most drivers prefer to pay for parking when they arrive at the facility," Schwartz's presentation states. I highly doubt that's true. Most drivers surely prefer free parking on Brooklyn streets.

Rather, it may be true that "Most drivers (who pay for parking) prefer to pay for parking when they arrive at the facility."

I queried seven people yesterday--Schwartz and Schack, three from Forest City Ratner, three from ESD--to ask how many people paid for parking when they arrive at a facility. All ignored my query. Forest City of course was happy to present exclusives last week to unskeptical New York Times and Wall Street Journal reporters.

Calculating free parking

With no statistics in the memo about how many drivers seek free parking, I tried to apply the figures in the documents to come up with a number. With an average of 17,200 tickets sold and 10% no-shows, that means average attendance for Nets games is 15,480 people.

So if 25.7% of weekday spectators come by auto, that's 3978 people. If weekday auto occupancy is 2.75 people/car, that means 1447 cars.

Subtract 239 cars that pre-pay for parking or have that parking bundled into a VIP ticket: 160 parking in the onsite lot, 75 buying pre-paid parking, and 4 using remote parking.

That leaves 1208 cars driving to Brooklyn to look for free on-street parking or maybe buy parking once they arrive. Even in the best interpretation of this, there are a lot of drivers cruising the streets of Brooklyn.

How many pay for parking once they get to Brooklyn? If "most drivers" pay, that means 75-plus, because only 75 pre-pay. So there could be 76, or 100, or 200.

I bet that the number is less than 208. If so, that means some 1208 seek free, on-street parking and more then 1000 get it.  Even if fewer than 1000 cars actually get free parking, and some wind up paying for parking, that still means those cars are cruising the streets rather than pre-paying and going directly to a lot.

The backing data would be very useful, but Schwartz's report did not provide such data.

How many spending money locally? 

The Wall Street Journal article stated:
According to the results of fan surveys commissioned by arena developer Forest City Ratner Cos., an average of 2,675 arena-goers are spending money at local businesses before or after weekday Nets games. For weekend games, that number rises to 3,470.
Those numbers are based on the pre- and post-game location statistics in the chart below, but they are slightly overstated, because they include the percentage coming from "other nearby location" rather than restaurant/bar/shopping.

How many come from Brooklyn?

More importantly, a significant percentage of those spending money locally are likely Brooklynites. Consider that 31.6% of Nets fans arrive at weekday games from Brooklyn and 36.9% return to Brooklyn. On weekends, the figure is evenly 34.5% coming and going.

Also consider that, as stated in Schwartz's presentation, "A Quarter of Nets Fans from Brooklyn Walk to Games.

That means that nearly 8% of Nets attendees walk to weekday games and more than 9% of walk home.

Surely they make up a decent chunk of those spending money in area businesses.

Yes, some of them probably "pre-game" at home, and others arriving early have a meal or drink, but locals must be factored in.

The backing data would be very useful, but Schwartz's report did not provide such data.

How many from Jersey: 1517 vs. higher estimates

As noted in the charts above, some 9.8% of Nets attendees return to New Jersey on weekdays, and 9.6% on weekends. Of the average 15,480 attendance, that's 1517 people from New Jersey.

As I wrote last week, Forest City consultant Andrew Zimbalist in 2005 estimated that 67.9% of Nets season-ticketholders lived in New Jersey, and that 51% of the rest of attendees were from New Jersey. So that makes a blended total of 55-57%.

Zimbalist then assumed that 30% of then-Nets fans would go to Brooklyn. So, apply 30% to that 55-57% to get 16.5% to 17.1%. Apply those percentages to the then-average attendance of 14,765, and that means 2436 to 2525 people.

That suggests a deficit of nearly 1000 New Jersey fans. Then again, Zimbalist's totals deserve an asterisk, as well. He was using official attendance, I'm certain, rather than average attendance. If we factor in at least 10% no-shows, the expected New Jersey range would instead be 2192 to 2272. So the deficit instead would be 675 to 755.

Getting to concerts--transit vs. driving

As the charts below indicate, there was a wide variety in mode share depending on the concert--a majority of attendees at Mumford & Sons took the subway, while most going to Marc Anthony drove.

Disney on Ice: driving

As indicated below, a majority of those going to Disney on Ice drove, given that most were bringing children, though the overall attendance was much lower than for Nets games.

From the memo: methodology
The TDM program includes a focus on marketing the robust transit service at the arena and strongly communicating the message that there is limited parking in the area. In addition, a host of other measures were implemented to minimize the number of vehicles traveling to the arena.
In order to evaluate the program’s effectiveness, travel data for arena events was collected for comparison with FEIS project goals. The methodology and findings for the data collection and evaluation process are described in the following section.
At least 600 attendees, age 16 and over, were interviewed at each event to provide a robust, statistically significant sample that reflects as accurate a picture as possible of the travel patterns of the entire audience. This sample size provides a margin of error that is +/-4% per event. Survey results were then weighted to account for the actual distribution of attendees by broad seating sections based on ticket scan data and to account for children attending events, who were not eligible for the survey.

Monday, June 17, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ratner ad

The malleable Ratner pitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's best for the people?

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

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

D'Amato neutralized

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