Skip to main content

So, why are Ratner & Gilmartin getting the Onassis Medal? The ends must justify the (ignored) means, and they don't fit most MAS goals.

Now there's an official page and invitation (also below) for the 2014 Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal, the Municipal Art Society’s highest honor, which "is presented annually to individuals and institutions whose work or deeds have made outstanding contributions to the quality of life in New York City."

As I wrote, it's highly questionable that Forest City Ratner's Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin, whatever their significant professional accomplishments, fit with the ideals that Onassis represented.

After all, Forest City has been called “among the most ruthless and difficult developers in the city" and the company is deeply entangled with the less-than-virtuous lobbyist Al D'Amato.

Did those deciding on the award consider all this, or did they just look at the buildings, and conclude that the ends justify the means? Remember, it's a fund-raiser.

If the medal is to go to a developer, there are stronger candidates. Consider someone like Jonathan Rose, who Metropolis described as "arguably the nation’s foremost developer of affordable, environmentally sensitive, socially conscious housing projects"?

Harmony with MAS goals?

Indeed, Forest City's record doesn't necessarily fit with the Municipal Art Society's efforts to create a "more livable city by advocating for excellence in urban planning and design, a commitment to historic preservation and the arts, and the empowerment of local communities to affect change in their neighborhoods."

While the signature Forest City buildings honored in the invitation--the Barclays Center, the New York Times Tower, New York By Gehry--arguably represent excellent urban design (if not urban planning), it's hard to say they represent a commitment to historic preservation nor the empowerment of local communities.

Heck, the Atlantic Yards project is in the middle of a court-ordered Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), because New York State, with Forest City, misled the public and the court about the change in the project timetable to 25 years.

And the Barclays Center is about to get a new green roof--and extended, disruptive construction--that was never disclosed in any environmental review. That's how they roll.

It's worth looking at how Ratner and Gilmartin are described in the invitation, at bottom. Note what's not mentioned: the (delayed) commitment to affordable housing, the dubious manipulation of "community" under the much-touted (but not credible) Community Benefits Agreement, and the role of a Russian oligarch and the Chinese government in Atlantic Yards.

Ratner's bio

From the bio:
Bruce Ratner is the Executive Chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies, a New York-based real estate development company which he started in 1985. As one of the largest urban real estate developers in the country, Mr. Ratner has developed 44 ground-up projects in the New York City area over nearly 30 years.
That's professional accomplishment, but there are other developers with significant records, too. As I wrote, it's notable that Ratner and Gilmartin are the first developers being honored in this way.
As the majority owner and developer of Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, Mr. Ratner is recognized for bringing the first major professional sports team to Brooklyn since the Dodgers left in 1957. The arena is part of Mr. Ratner’s $4.9 billion, 22-acre mixed-use Atlantic Yards development, which will include 6,400 residential units. The first residential building, under construction now, is being built using a pioneering method of modular construction.
Yes, he brought the first major league team to Brooklyn, but also used that team to leverage a real estate deal and to avoid the empowerment of local communities. Nor is it his team any more--he sold 80% to Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov and is the process of selling his company's remaining share.

Nor is it his "Atlantic Yards development," since Forest City Ratner and parent Forest City Enterprises are in the process of selling 70% of the remaining project (excluding the arena and first tower) to the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group. So public subsidies, as well as cheap capital from the dubious marketing of green cards under the EB-5 program, will benefit the Chinese government.

Also, while modular construction is a pioneering method, we recently learned--well after the decision to honor Ratner and Gilmartin--that it's not yet working out as planned: the first building is delayed a year, and Greenland has determined that the next three towers will be built using conventional construction. So much for some of the promised benefits from modular, such as less noise, fewer trucks, and less disruption.
Mr. Ratner’s commitment to New York City is exemplified by his service on the boards of Weill Cornell Medical College; the Museum of Jewish Heritage – a Living Memorial to the Holocaust, where he serves as Chairman-Elect; and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
That represents significant service, but if board service were a qualification for the Onassis Medal, the list of moguls eligible would be a mile long.

Gilmartin's bio

From the bio:
Maryanne Gilmartin is President and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies, where she has led the development of some of the most high profile real estate projects in New York City, including New York By Gehry, the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere, designed by architect Frank Gehry, and the New York Times Building, designed by architect Renzo Piano. She is also leading the effort to build Atlantic Yards.
OK, now we know for sure that these are the projects being recognized.
Ms. Gilmartin has been recognized as a top professional in her field by New York Women Executives in Real Estate (WX) as its 2007 “Woman of the Year,” by Crain’s in 2007 as one of New York’s Most Influential Women and again, in 2011 and 2013, by Crain’s as one of New York’s 50 Most Powerful Women.
Those are all pretty much insider awards, since the real estate industry and Crain's are not about to look at the Culture of Cheating.
As a Trustee of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), a Member of the Board of Governors of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), Co-Chair of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and a Member of the Industry Advisory Board of the MS Real Estate Development Program at Columbia University, Ms. Gilmartin’s personal and professional commitment to New York City is deep.
Three of those professional commitments are intertwined with Forest City's business interests, while the fourth seems an FCR seat on the BAM board, given Ratner's long relationship. Again, however significant the service, it's hard to see how that translates into the Onassis Medal.

Comments

  1. Anonymous7:03 AM

    groups like MAS give awards to people who have friends that will come to the event and donate lots of $, it is obviously not for any high minded civic reason, MAS are all for preserving midtown and the upper east side, damn the rest

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…