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Showing posts from January, 2014

Bruce Ratner on Bloomberg TV: "you can save more on a low interest rate than you can on buying a building" (thus, EB-5)

A Bloomberg TV interview two days ago was cut up into several parts, including New York City Is Growing Like Crazy: Ratner, in which the mogul touts the new high-tech firms that want to be in New York City and Brooklyn.

Then there was No Evidence Past Wage Hikes Changed Economy: Ratner, in which Ratner defended an increase in the minimum wage--"why should I subsidize Wal-Mart workers?" with federal support--and backed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's effort to increase taxes on the rich to pay for pre-K, noting that Mayors Rudy Giuliani and David Dinkins raised taxes more for new cops.

But the really choice excerpt was Wasn’t Easy, But Bernanke Saved the Economy: Ratner, in which the developer discussed national policy and declared interest rates "the most critical aspect of real estate."

"We look at it very  carefully and when we think it is very low, we will very often refinance something and lock it in. It's critical," Ratner declared.

We al…

From City and State: Ratner rises to #43 on the Power 100 list; Lewis enters at #42

Last year, Forest City Ratner's CEO Bruce Ratner was #59 on NYC's "Power 100" list, as complied by the semi-monthly political magazine City and State.

This year Ratner, now the company's chairman, is #43, a bump up based on his history of support for Mayor Bill de Blasio, as indicated in the screenshot below. (The issue isn't online yet.)

As the screenshot indicates, the Black Institute's Bertha Lewis--who wasn't on the list last year--ranks #42, based on her closeness to de Blasio. City and State doesn't point out that she's Ratner's affordable housing ally, but that pairing will rely on some synergy.


Also note, at #24 and #23, Jonathan Rosen and Valerie Berlin of the political consulting/p.r. firm Berlin Rosen. They work not only for de Blasio but also for Ratner and Lewis, another reason I annotated de Blasio's Circle of Power last November by adding Forest City Ratner.

Exclusive: Forest City seeking $249M in cheap financing from immigrant investors (again); Chinese government would profit by selling U.S. green cards to Chinese!

Also see coverage today regarding how Forest City Ratner spent its first round of EB-5 financing and two federal reports critical of EB-5.

Three years after they (deceptively) marketed Atlantic Yards to green card-seeking immigrant investors, thus reaping $228 million in cheap capital via the federal government's EB-5 program, Atlantic Yards promoters are back.

Their effort now is bigger and bolder, aiming to raise $249 million, saving likely well over $100 million compared to conventional financing.

"Atlantic Yards II" features similarly mendacious marketing. It hypes basketball, the already-built Barclays Center, and booming Brooklyn while remaining vague about how the investors' money might actually be used--though there are hints it would be used for the new railyard that developer Forest City Ratner is obligated to build.

It offers stale quotes from former elected officials about the entire $5 billion Atlantic Yards project, leaving the impression that investors&…

Margin for the developer: Forest City says EB-5 funds used for infrastructure; evidence suggests $228M used to retire high-interest loan

Also see coverage today regarding Forest City Ratner's new plans to raise EB-5 funds and two federal reports critical of EB-5.

In a new video, Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin tells potential new immigrant investors, who'd offer a low-interest loan in exchange for green cards for themselves and their families, "Several years back, we utilized EB-5 funds to execute other infrastructure improvements in and around the Barclays Center."

It is, at best, a partial truth, for Gilmartin to claim that the $228 million Forest City raised beginning in 2010--likely saving more than $100 million over conventional financing--was used for infrastructure.

Documentary evidence from the New York City Department of Finance, as well as Forest City's own statements, suggests the money was used, in large portion, to replace a high-interest land loan from Gramercy Capital.

That subverts the intent, if not the letter of the law, which justifies the green cards because each $500…

The EB-5 backlash: federal audits cite potential fraud, national security threats, bogus job creation, recommend elimination of regional center program, increased minimum investment

Also see coverage today regarding how Forest City Ratner spent its first round of EB-5 financing and its plans for a new round.

The federal government's immigrant investor program (known as EB-5) has faced a recent backlash, with two highly critical governmental reports on a program that typically has organized supporters while few skeptics look at the public interest.

For example, the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General said the federal agency overseeing EB-5 is "limited in its ability to prevent fraud or national security threats." Nor can it "demonstrate that the program is improving the U.S. economy and creating jobs for U.S. citizens as intended by Congress."

That's harsh criticism for a program that's a hot topic in development finance, with aggressive supporters enjoying the benefit of marketing something they don't own--green cards--and turning it into cheap financing, money they say is often unavailable due to to a tigh…

So, what exactly has the NYPD traffic division done around the arena? The trail remains murky

As reported 10/30/13, NYPD Traffic Enforcement District Manager Donald Powe told the 78th Precinct Community Council meeting that the division would "devote a few patrol cars" to the streets around the Barclays Center where illegal idling and parking problems had been recorded. It was a rather belated response to complaints.

For how long? "It'll be ongoing," he replied.

At the 12/4/13 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee, North Slope resident Steve Ettlinger noted the numerous apparent violations cited on Atlantic Yards Watch and asked about Powe.

“We invited him,” said 78th Precinct Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri.

Ettlinger, who along with others said he'd been unable to find contact information for Powe, said he believed there were several tactics--including foot patrols and different hours--that would help with enforcement.

“They are civilian members” of the department, Ameri said. “I'll reach out to a supervisor.”

Following up

I la…

At the 78th, an award serves as reminder that Ratner's malls, not AY footprint, are crime center

For those with long memories, the Cop of the Month award announced last night at the 78th Precinct Community Council meeting in Prospect Heights provoked some knowing chuckles.

For the 78th and its commander, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri, it was good news. Since the busy Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls were added to the precinct in September 2012 as part of a reconfiguration that also added the Barclays Center, major crimes at the malls were down 25% last year.

Still, said Ameri, "I have some issues, some crime, some after-school problems." So the dedicated mall unit--Officers Bash, Butler, Prince, and Sears--together managed 200 arrests, earning them the month's award.

Ameri later told me the malls--which, I'd note--are operated by Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner--accounted for some 500 arrests last year, mostly minor crimes.

That was congruent with March 2009 statement by Captain Vanessa Kight, 88th Precinct Executive Officer, that "A…

Revealed: how New York State helped Forest City Ratner get low-interest loan from Chinese investors, asked for nothing in return

The request by elected officials and community groups to tie approval of Forest City Ratner's planned joint venture with the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group--to sell 70% of the remaining 15 towers--to a new timetable should be seen in full context.

New York State seems far less interested in preserving the public interest than doing Forest City Rather's bidding. In a telling example, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC, or ESD) sent a top official to China in 2010 to help Forest City Raise cheap capital, asking for nothing in return.

According to documents I acquired, ESDC sent then-Executive Director Peter Davidson for a week to help Forest City raise $228 million from potential immigrant investors. That saved more than $100 million on conventional financing, by my calculation.

Under the federal government's EB-5 program, investors get green cards for themselves and their families if they invest in a purportedly job-creating enterprise.

Governmental i…