Monday, January 13, 2014

Atlantic Yards in 2013: arena hits stride (but not profits), modular emerges; SEIS slowed; Nets rollercoaster; court win validates community concerns; Chinese investor emerges; Bloomberg/Markowitz valedictories

Yes, I know this is late, but only last week did I fit in some 2013 events that deserved to be on this list.

In my 2013 Atlantic Yards preview, I suggested that the Atlantic Yards saga was by no means over.

Indeed, the first modular building was delayed, the lack of affordability became clear. The start date for the permanent new railyard was delayed again.

The question of the project's timetable remained unresolved, as project critics took on the task of pushing a ten-year timetable, while project supporters, including those who want affordable housing, argued for leaving the situation in Forest City Ratner's control.

And there was, of course, a surprise. The biggest news was the recruitment of a new investor to buy 70% of the project going forward, investor, Chinese government-owned Greenland Group, and the disclosure of financial information: an "impairment" for Forest City Enterprises of $250-$350 million on an investment of more than $500 million, and Greenland's seeming bargain: putting in just $200 million reciprocally.

The Barclays Center posted impressive numbers regarding ticket sales and concerts, and hit its revenue targets. But, curiously enough, it didn't come close to the profits projected, because of high start-up costs involving personnel and deals cut to attract performers.

The Nets made the playoffs, but lost in the first round. With a new coach, and aging stars from Boston, the Nets were seen as having mortgaged the future in order to contend for the title. As a result of widespread injuries and delayed cohesion, they've had a rollercoaster season, terrible by the end of 2013 but much better in 2014.

The developer still hasn't hired an Independent Compliance Monitor to evaluate its own performance, and that of its hand-picked partners, under the "historic" Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).

Given that Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD) is now defunct, Forest City lacks a CBA partner for the job-training component, and said no new partner will be named. A lawsuit involving that training program lingers.

The Barclays Center has continued to recruit for part-time jobs, which suggests turnover; the arena says the pay rate is "living wage," but is fuzzy about benefits and hours available.

The CBA spawned a community tickets program in which community groups get access to arena events. It has gotten little publicity, which means existing groups--many in the orbit of the House of the Lord Church--have first dibs. There still have been no promised low-cost arena rentals to community groups.

A lawsuit, finally resolved last year, requires New York State to study the community impacts of a potential 25-year construction plan, including one in which the first buildings constructed beyond the arena block are on that parking lot. While a hearing on the scope of the study was held in February, no Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement have been released--likely because the state was, at Forest City's behest, waiting for new investors.

In a decision validating concerns about the process, a state judge awarded attorneys' fees to the winning community coalitions, and ESDC agreed to pay $300,000, using Forest City's money. That may help fund future litigation.

A report by a Forest City consultant proclaimed the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan was highly effective, with fewer people driving than projected--thanks, in part to smaller attendance, fewer people from New Jersey, more people taking taxis/limos, and more locals walking. It failed to address illegal parking and idling, however.

A report from DOT claimed there was sufficient on-street parking, which did not dampen the call for residential parking permits.

The MTV Video Music Awards helped put the Barclays Center in the world media, but the outdoor pre-show meant a mix of block party and severe impediment.

The arena paid a fine for leaking bass, and still hasn't solved its noise problem.

The retail impact is still emerging, as rents rise, old business leaves, and new ones (Morgan's, Movil, Tony Roma's) emerge, even as Shake Shake still isn't open and the former Triangle Sports building at Fifth and Flatbush avenues doesn't yet have a tenant.

Atlantic Yards was not much of an election issue in 2013. Council Member Letitia James cited it but hardly played it up in her run for Public Advocate. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio pulled off a runaway victory with slight scrutiny of his support for Atlantic Yards.

Borough President Marty Markowitz, enormously satisfied with a new team and arena, left office with no announced plan. But he sure had his told-you-so's.

January

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership proposes a new Business Improvement District (BID) that would encompass Atlantic Yards and would represent a radical expansion of the Downtown Brooklyn's boundaries.

Fox 5 Good Day NY host Rosanna Scotto's giddy approach to Jay-Z and the Barclays Center sure isn't hurt by the fact that her sister Elaina was involved with, and now engaged to, Nets/arena CEO Brett Yormark. 

A New York Times exclusive on a Barclays Center Concert of Jewish Music ignores the connection between a beneficiary, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a key Atlantic Yards supporter.

The latest campaign finance disclosures show that, on 11/18/12, developer Bruce Ratner gave $5000 to Attorney General Eric  Schneiderman's 2014 re-election campaign. That was shortly after the closing of Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD, which had been the subject of a complaint to the Attorney General. Ratner, though, was already giving to the AG. 

The Brooklyn Nets narrowly beat the New York Knicks, evening the season series, closing the gap to one game behind their rivals, and capping a remarkable 11-2 resurgence under Coach P.J. Carlesimo, who replaced Avery Johnson, fired less than a month earlier. ds.

Union reps and their contractor counterparts, at an oversight hearing, charged NYC Department of Buildings bent the rules to allow Forest City Ratner to prefabricate housing off-site without the supervision of licensed plumbers, electricians, and steamfitters.

A Forest City exec seemed to mislead Council Member Letitia James when she asked whether the fabricator of steel for modular housing as a union shop.

Crain's New York Business reports Bruce Ratner will preparing to step down as chief executive and be replaced by MaryAnne Gilmartin.

The annual Forbes list of NBA team valuations shows a 48% rise in value of the Brooklyn Nets, bringing the team value to $530 million even before assessing the full impact of the new arena and location

Police overseeing the Barclays Center say things have gone smoothly overall, but some residents still report many illegally parked and idling black cars or limos.

Anecdotal evidence from one limo driver, who works for an NBA player, suggested two failures. One is the failure to provide sufficient spaces within the arena to accommodate such cars, which is common among NBA arenas.  The other is a failure to inform limo drivers of the designated staging area.

February

The MTA reports ridership at Atlantic Terminal is up 334% since arena opened.

Forest City predicts “the first mods will start to arrive in August" to build B2, and the building will be finished by August 2014.

Forest City deflects questions about the promised Independent Compliance Monitor. “There’s no health benefits because they’re part-time employees," FCR's Ashley Cotton says of part-time workers. BUILD "is not going to get replaced,” she said, “but the entire CBA monitors us on a regular basis."

calculate/estimate land for the project has been vastly undervalued or not even counted, adding up to nearly $80 million, at least, and likely more than $124 million.

The Times publishes the snarky Neighbors Predicted Chaos. Now They’re Just Annoyed., ignoring remaining problems regarding the arena.

The Daily News publishes The drunken hordes that never came: Park Slope was wrong about Barclays Center, which leads writer Louise Crawford to say she was "very frustrated" with the editing.

Next City critiques the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, finding signatories unwilling to talk with "five of the groups have been mostly silent or reconstituted after without much fanfare.”
But even the moderately skeptical tone of the article doesn't address the drama and mendacity behind the CBA.

The Daily News, after surveying nearly two dozen establishments, concludes the retail response to the arena is a mixed bag.

Public Advocate de Blasio asks that the NBA All-Star Game go to Barclays Center, saying Madison Square Garden is run by a union buster. Then again, some Barclays Center workers move to de-certify their union, saying MSG offers better terms.

A hearing on the parameters for the court-ordered environmental review of Atlantic Yards Phase 2 (right) included predictable--if quite current--testimony on the benefits of Barclays Center jobs and pedestrian activity, and the community impacts of 24/7 construction, removal of trees, and arena noise. But the testimony turned on whether the state should smooth the path for Forest City or speed the timetable.

Bruce Ratner "quietly" gets tabloid publicity for assisting a blinded Sudanese ex-slave.

March

Mikhail Prokhorov makes the cover of the latest Forbes World Billionaires issue: Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov: From Oligarch To President?

The latest statistics show that, in 2012, the Atlantic Yards Development Company was the #10 spender in the city on lobbying but #1 in the number of lobbying firms retained.

Bruce Ratner is honored by the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

New York magazine' names the Barclays Center Best Entertainment Venue.

Season ticket prices for cheap seats at the arena will jump from $15 to $25.

According to the Times's House in Barclays Center’s Shadow Is Snapped Up around $1.495 million ask.

Community planner Ron Shiffman, received the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership, presented by the Rockefeller Foundation, referencing his work with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

In a City Limits profile of Marty Markowitz, critic Tom Angotti says, "He went from being a happy cheerleader to being a nasty guy" regarding Atlantic Yards.

The Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey circus comes to Brooklyn, with a staged elephant walk-through DUMBO. Activist protest at the arena. Outside, the push to sell programs is vigorous.

Campaign finance reports suggest significant Forest City support via bundling for mayoral candidates de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson

Forest City expects arena operating income not to stabilize until the Islanders finally move in.

Discussing the developer's business decisions to bring in new investors and to divest in non-core markets, CFO Bob O'Brien says, "I often say that everything is ultimately for sale, at a price, and if we can get full value in some of our core markets or products, that's what we would consider." 

Forest City Enterprises (FCE) confirms  its Forest City Ratner subsidiary has no plan to build an expensive deck over the 8.5-acre Vanderbilt Yard before building four towers on the southeast block of the site, Block 1129, as in graphic at right.

April

The claimed "remarkable transparent view into the bowl" of the arena is actually a fractional view impeded by a layer of advertising.

Borough President Marty Markowitz's final State of the Borough address-cum-talk-show is epically weird. No one from Forest City showed up, but they donated the arena.

Jay-Z, becoming a sports agent, will have to sell his slice of the Nets, and the arena. Among TIME magazine's celeb-heavy list of the world's 100 most influential people, one of the seven most important--gracing one of seven covers--is Jay Z, Artist and entrepreneur, honored by New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg: 

Under the headline Brooklyn's Finest, Jay-Z posted a message: "My job as an owner is over but as a fan it has just begun. I’m a Brooklyn Net forever.”

In its ongoing look at the wonderfulness of the Barclays Center, the New York Times Sports section offees Section 15: The Happy Arena, citing Disney training, but failing to mention compensation.

There’s a huge battle brewing over the future of Madison Square Garden, as some influential organizations and commentators (Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman), seemingly in concert with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and the Bloomberg administration, in urging the arena be moved.

Deja vu? Forest City Ratner (and partners) aim to revamp and downsize the 40-year-old Nassau Coliseum, drawing much for the Barclays Center plan and design, right down to the buzzwords, partners, and question marks.


Markowitz issues a statement about Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs: "there is no doubt the Nets are going to give the “flu-ey” Bulls the medicine they need—an early exit from the playoffs." They don't.

May

mayoral forum turns into a sequential series of one-on-one interviews with WNYC's Andrea Bernstein, with candidates mostly obfuscating about Atlantic Yards.

After six months of periodic complaints that the Barclays Center was operating as a neighborhood sub-woofer, the arena finally paid a fine. 

The ESDC finally says idling on the pad--the strip of parking next to the loading dock and screened off from the bicycle parking area--is not allowed.

LIU plans to honor Ratner, Markowitz at Barclays Center commencement.

Arena officials say Barclays Center deserves slack as a "start-up."

Many complaints about pile drilling at the railyard site.

Apparently the Barclays Center mists a "signature scent," as DNAinfo reports in a story that went wide.

The Brooklyn Hospital Center will hold its 2013 Founders Ball at the arena, with lead honoree Forest City's new CEO Gilmartin.

The Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance is still working on organizing promised community use of the arena.

The Barclays Center pledged that attendees showing up early for general admission tickets would line up east to west stretching toward the arena plaza, rather than clogging the sidewalk on Sixth Avenue. But that didn't happen.

City downplays Ratner's role in fixing Coney carousel.

June

Bloomberg comes to the Barclays Center to promote the new valet bike parking service. Members of The National, the headliners, rode from Ditmas Park. Some 85 people parked their bikes.

Gib Veconi of Brooklyn Speaks suggests Forest City's strategy "was dependent not just on the limited bandwidth of local elected officials to see the end game, or even on the lock-step sponsorship of Mayor Bloomberg and four New York State Governors (a major help), but also upon the developer’s brilliant timing of the Brooklyn real estate market."

Jay-Z faces tough analysis in The Unwinding, New Yorker writer (and Brooklynite) George Packer's new non-fiction narrative. TIME columnist Joe Klein: "Where do we find moral authority in a society that, as Packer writes, celebrates an unapologetic former crack dealer like Jay Z?"

The Daily News reports Barclays Center among Brooklyn's newest architectural standouts honored by Chamber of Commerce. Arena named Sports Facility of the Year at the Sports Business Journal’s Sports Business Awards. "It was always about the community first," claims Yormark.

Yormark claims "we've modestly increased that $15 [ticket] price for next year."

In a bold p.r. move, the Nets name former star (and recent Knick) Jason Kidd their new coach. A few wonder whether he's ready.

Fewer people drive to the arena, according to a new report, but--contrary to a New York Times exclusive--that's not simply because Forest City Ratner reduced on-site parking and promoted public transportation. Subway usage is not up hugely, but more people take taxis and walk.

"These numbers just don't reconcile to what we're living through, every day," one resident says, since many drivers seek free parking, unmentioned in the report.

The arena's off-center hockey layout gets mixed reviews.

The arena plans a plaza farmers market on Wednesdays July 10 through November 27

The BID That Wasn’t: Barclays-Area Effort Dissolves, For Now, since organizers couldn’t figure how to spread the burden fairly on property owners.

Brooklyn Tech is the first high school to hold graduation at arena, paying $60,000 in senior dues. 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 Brooklynettes get a big spread in the Daily News. The Brooklyn Paper sent a reporter to try out and, predictably, not make it.


Forest City's Gilmartin judged 16th most powerful woman in NYC.

In push for title, Nets trade for aging Boston stars Garnett, Pierce.

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

July

On Bloomberg TV, Bruce Ratner claims 2000 arena jobs (1900 part-time) means "tremendous" impact on local economy.

ESD Atlantic Yards Project Director Arena Hankin leaves for fellowship at Harvard.

Plans for MTV Video Music Awards alarm Prospect Heights residents.

At Quality of Life meeting, concerns about impact of vibrations, lights at playground, ongoing problem with Barclays Center noise.

Markowitz announces lineups for last concert series while in office; Forest City, Nets, Barclays among sponsors, as noted at right.

Nets/arena CEO Brett Yormark claims "We did not comp" boxing tickets.

Candidate de Blasio says the city must do better in holding developers accountable (but doesn't look in mirror).

Forest City Ratner team, MSG team finalists to revamp Nassau Coliseum.

“Jay-Z is bulletproof," says a prominent manager.

Lawsuit aims to reverse DOB approval of Forest City's modular plan.

Dean Street building across from arena parking lot sold, may become health club, restaurant. Building at Flatbush and St. Marks sells for $15 million.

Barclays ranks first in U.S. for 2013 concert ticket sales, third in world. Barclays ahead of MSG in concert/family show revenue, but the Garden earns more per event.

Kemistry kaput: SLA denies liquor license to controversial lounge/club.

Bruce Ratner reflects: "I am a big public interest person. But I need to make money."

August 2013

In his new book A Country of Cities, Vishaan Chakrabarti deems Atlantic Yards and the Barclays Center exemplars of what he calls the "high-low" city (right), ignoring how the plaza is accidental.

Justin Bieber escapes Barclays Center without incident, thanks to new strategy, but hysteria takes a while to abate.

Forest City and pay-to-play: findings suggest, at the least, a coordinated strategy, despite claim that contributions aren't dictated by company.

de Blasio answers Atlantic Yards question: "I think government has to hold the developer's feet to the fire to get it done, and on a real timeline."

The surprise firing of power broker William Rapfogel: four Forest City Ratner angles.

The Barclays Center is hiring again (after firing again?), urging "Believe in Barclays. Believe in Brooklyn."

Yes, Forest City would like Dan Squadron, not Tish James, to become Public Advocate.

Ratner on Nassau Coliseum: "We're giving the municipality money... all privately financed." Ratner wins bid to revamp Coliseum. Coliseum press conference features college/pro hoops, Islanders, and boxing, but minor league hockey will be main tenant.

Before and after Bloomberg: Times map suggests Barclays Center marks "preference for building," but unbuilt railyard suggests ambiguous legacy.

Times: Forest City's trying to sell up to 80% of Atlantic Yards. Spokesman DePlasco blames delays on lawsuits.

The VMAs come to Brooklyn. Prospect Heights verdict: "block party to end all block parties" or locals "soured to the experience"? MTV anonymously thanks locals for being "exceptionally kind hosts" for VMAs.

In 35th District, Jobs for New York spending provokes "No 2 [Laurie] Cumbo"; video shows candidate saying "blow the whistle" on PAC spending (though she didn't until pushed)

Forest City Enterprises' first Corporate Social Responsibility Report gets Atlantic Yards wrong, ignores Ridge Hill, omits data on campaign contributions, displacement, government assistance

Giant sculpture with "gritty vibrancy" arrives at Barclays Center, gets big promotion from Times Arts section (looks like mesa, flames, or gyro?).

September 2013

WNYC reports on de Blasio: "his handling of Atlantic Yards raises questions about whether he has been able to push developers to keep their promises"

Forest City Enterprises says arena not expected to stabilize financially until 2016.

B2 tower completion date nudged six months back to Q4 2014; "mods" were once due in August, now coming in October. Forest City says delays for "all good reasons."

CEO Yormark says "nothing but a championship" will be accepted; Jay-Z's team share sold to J-Kidd.

de Blasio wins Democratic primary, James in runoff for Public Advocate, Cumbo wins in 35th, says she was nicknamed "Little Tish" by constituents while campaigning. 

With ex-ACORN head Lewis backing de Blasio, a boost for Atlantic Yards housing?

Barclays Center hockey configuration said to hold 15,813; arena now selling obstructed-view seats.

Daily News columnist Denis Hamill hypes arena. Sunny Daily News package on arena's first year allows few discouraging words, less analysis.

Honored at tickets giveaway (right), Ratner claims program could be "as important or more important" than arena.

So, when will Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards Phase 2 be issued? ESDC says there's no timetable.

In decision awarding fees to attorneys challenging Atlantic Yards timetable, judge slams ESDC, suggests arena might not have been started/built had agency come clean

NBA awards the 2015 All-Star Game to Madison Square Garden, but the other festivities to the Barclays Center.

DOT says street parking availability falls during Barclays Center events, but still spaces available; neighbors raise doubts about study.

October

Daily News scoop: City claims Barclays Center's an economic hit.

Barclays Center CEO Yormark says arena was "overstaffed." Remote parking and shuttle buses axed. Was first year a loss leader?

At ESDC, Paula Roy takes on a role overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards.

James wins Democratic runoff for Public Advocate.

Stephen Witt's Atlantic Yards novel gets a boost, though not much, from Bruce Ratner

NYPD says no violent crimes, more summonses than arrests at arena

After one year, the arena is a marquee venue, but not the promised home for civic events.

Forest City to sell 70% stake in Atlantic Yards to Chinese government-owned developer. Stock jumps 5.45%. Veconi says scrutiny and oversight needed.

Forest City Ratner again gets extension from MTA on railyard start.

One year in, Barclays Center, to DOB, is officially "Temporary," likely due (in part) to delayed retail.

ESD board approves change to B4 plan, nudging bulk of huge tower closer to Sixth Avenue (right); board unbowed by request for more time for public to assess modification.

Do Barclays Center jobs really pay a "living wage"? Not unless workers get 40 hours a week (and they don't).

FCR's Gilmartin at Summit for NYC: "To my mind the modern redux of Jane Jacobs" = modular buildings for Atlantic Yards (!), plus tale of "massive blight."

Post says Barclays Center is using metal detectors again (blaming NBA/NYPD).

Obama visits Brooklyn: a Nets reference and an oculus welcome.

Sensation again booms bass into residences near Barclays Center. But no fine.

In mayoral debates, Lhota goes after de Blasio on Atlantic Yards; slams opponent across from arena, claims Ratner close to default on MTA railyard last year.

Former Forest City Ratner lobbyist Melvin Lowe, Sampson crony, charged with corruption; case does not involve developer.

NYPD traffic division (finally) pledges to push on illegal parking around Barclays Center.

November 2013

Doubly bizarre: Forest City Ratner aims to lower tax assessments on Block 1129 of Atlantic Yards site.

Greenland Group chairman reportedly says Atlantic Yards would take eight years to finish/

Atlantic Yards timetable claims: Ratner said housing would be done "5/6 years" after arena; Stuckey said project "conservatively" would take 10 years, but "we hope to do better."

Near Barclays Center, the rave that wasn’t, in the building pictured at right.

Barclays Center, Neighborhood Catalyst? MAS award is badly misguided.

Will James challenge de Blasio on Atlantic Yards?

de Blasio’s Circle of Power annotated with FCR.

Elected officials call for Atlantic Yards sale deferred until new analysis and commitments regarding housing; Adams is absent.

de Blasio names Gilmartin, Lewis to his 60-member transition team. 

Idling trucks/buses at 3:20 a.m. outside arena after Kanye West concert, neighbor reports; leaking bass shakes items inside apartment.

Blame Kidd as Nets "hit another rock bottom"?

Average "affordable" 2 BR in first Atlantic Yards tower would rent for $1946.

Barclays Center hasn't done much for Brooklyn's unemployment rate.

Barclays retail round-up:  Tony Roma progress, Triangle still needs tenant, Shake Shack coming next spring.

Ex-Carpenters official Zarzana, Atlantic Yards cheerleader, pleads guilty to extortion.

At Barclays Center, many empty seats for Legends Classic college tourney.

December 2013

Bloomberg says he always "made decisions based on the merits." But Atlantic Yards was "Get it done no matter what." He calls  Brooklyn "the quintessential urban success story," touts Barclays Center as legacy.

Atlantic Yards B2 rendering skews several perspectives, suggests clock tower.

The Atlantic Yards modular strategy: a narrative of innovation. Forest City changes modular construction plan, will deliver four mods overnight. No study, disclosure of plan. First delivery (right) has traffic snag,  cascade of honking. Press event mostly a win. No more deliveries, so it was a media event.

Is an Atlantic Yards "mod"like a dishwasher? Judge dismisses challenge to DOB modular approval.

Libertarian watchdog group Cause of Action issues Unfair Enrichment: How Forest City Enterprises Acts Above the Law.

Barclays Center profits well below projections. Was first year a loss leader?

Forest City warns  of $250M-$350M "impairment" on Atlantic Yards; investors/analysts dismayed. Shares dip 2.9 percentWas Atlantic Yards a lesson in asking developers for too much? Forest City says Greenland deal definitive, reveals $200M payment.

The Nets are discounting tickets and practicing dynamic pricing.
Nets said to plan practice court, training facility in Sunset Park industrial district.

After lousy Knicks blow out lousier Nets at Barclays Center, more criticism of coach Kidd.

"Farewell to the King of Brooklyn": the Marty Markowitz retrospectives begin; a valedictory on Lehrer, with a defense of Atlantic Yards and a dig at bike lanes. Final holiday card: some Barclays gloating and bike lane sniping.

After numerous complaints, Barclays Center installs  "No Idling" signs on pad ajdacent to loading dock.




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