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Showing posts from May, 2014

Orwellian, almost: Student winners of arena tour required to write essay, "What's the best thing about the Barclays Center?"

It's Orwellian, almost.

As indicated in the graphic below, the Invictus Youth Initiative, a program of Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (best known for distributing free tickets), held a contest in which schools could win a private tour of the Barclays Center.

Three schools were winners: Prep For Success at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights; JS 113 (presumably MS 113, whose principal is a sister of the DBNA executive director and daughter of the DBNA chairman) in Fort Greene, and PS 181 in East Flatbush.
"Bring a class or use the opportunity as an incentive for student achievement!!!" potential entrants were asked.
Boosting Barclays

Note this requirement: "Students who attend the tour must submit 1-2 page essay/composition, answering the question, 'What's the best thing about Barclays Center?'"

Isn't such a requirement the opposite of education? (Here are some more complicating per…

Coming construction: delayed West Portal for LIRR means shutting down Atlantic Avenue lane (for 10 months?), closing sidewalk, major equipment

The next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting, at 6 pm on June 3, will be held at the YWCA Community Room, 30 3rd Avenue. According to Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, the meeting will include "some critical construction updates."

That's an understatement.

From what I've heard, and my information is indirect and incomplete because they don't send out an agendaand there's no real oversight, a frenzy of activity is slated around the arena block, with traffic lane shutdowns on Atlantic Avenue and possibly Flatbush Avenue.

The frenzy involves tower construction, railyard work, and a huge new green roof on the Barclays Center, the latter proclaimed to be beautification but also clearly an effort at damage control.

All this seems timed to start after the under-the-radar joint venture with the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group closes in June.

I'll write soon about the overall plans, but first wa…

After two years of "coming soon" signage, Sugar Factory will finally open at the Barclays Center

Here's another example of Atlantic Yards down the memory hole, an article in the Commercial Observer headlined Sugar Factory Signs Sweet Deal at Barclays Center:
Come September, Barclays Center will be home to New York City’s second Sugar Factory. The Las Vegas-based cafe and sweetery chain signed a lease on May 15 for 4,000 square feet on the ground floor of the arena, Commercial Observer has learned.  The asking rent in the 15-year deal at the major sports and entertainment venue, at 620 Atlantic Avenue, was $200 per foot, a source with knowledge of the deal said. The real story is not that the Sugar Factory is coming--it's why the delay has been nearly two years. The Sugar Factor was supposed to be such lock its location was made part of the interior signage of the arena, above right.

As the exterior signage at left (at the Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street end of the arena) indicates, the Sugar Factory has been "coming soon" at the arena since October 2012.

Last y…

Reality warp: judge in eminent domain case agrees Atlantic Yards site would've been upzoned; ESD claimed there'd be no changes without project

Remember how the Empire State Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development, or ESD), in the 2006 Atlantic Yards environmental review, claimed the project site would not "experience substantial change in the future without the proposed project... due to the existence of the open rail yard and the low-density industrial zoning regulations."

When the very reasonable possibility of a rezoning was raised, the state authority stonewalled, claiming, "While the City, if it desired, could rezone the project site, it has not."

I called it one of the state authority's "least credible statements," and a judge recently confirmed that observation, denying ESD's claim that there would have been no rezoning.

In a case resolved this month regarding the value of a condemned property within the Atlantic Yards site, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Wayne Saitta agreed with the property owner's argument that the site, without the project, could have bec…

Forest City Enterprises CEO: importance of Greenland deal "cannot be underestimated"; board chairman says our reputation "remains fully intact" and improving

There wasn't any news, really, out of the Forest City Enterprises annual shareholder meeting, held this afternoon at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the headquarters city of Cleveland.

But for those of us with a slightly more skeptical view of Forest City, it's always interesting to hear how they talk to (and about) themselves.
"Our whole enterprise for as long as I've been here, and those who came before me, has been built on relationships," said Board Chairman (and former CEO) Chuck Ratner, introducing CFO Bob O'Brien.
Indeed, relationships are why board member Bruce Ratner, Chairman of subsidiary Forest City Ratner, makes strategic political contributions.
"Recent discussions [CEO David LaRue] and I  have have had with some investors have indicated that some are questioning whether we have lost momentum," declared O'Brien a bit later. 
"Be assured," he responded, "we are not losing sight of our ultimate goal, to drive shareholder value.…

Looking back at RPA arguments for Atlantic Yards accountability: "city-making" still needs oversight (and there's still time to comment)

It's certainly curious.

After Atlantic Yards was passed in 2006, one observation--especially from the Regional Plan Association (RPA), self-described as "America's oldest and most distinguished independent urban research and advocacy group---was that a project of this dimension needs greater public oversight during the complicated and inevitably long buildout.

That hasn't happened, though the need certainly remains and two Assembly bills--albeit without much support as of now--are pending to authorize a subsidiary to achieve such oversight.

In fact, such oversight has slackened. Until the opening of the Barclays Center, there was a bi-monthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, which once provided a forum for various agencies to get updates.

It's been replaced by a Quality of Life Committee, less committee than presentation, where, the pattern has been recently, officials from Empire State Development and Forest City Ratner deliver reports and take a few ques…

New outpost of SoHo's Parm coming to Flatbush near Barclays Center; sports bar or restaurant likely on third floor of Atlantic Center mall

On 12/5/13, Dan Myers of Here's Park Slope observed Something Big in The Works for 208-210 Flatbush Avenue, saying the space at 208-210 Flatbush Avenue, between Bergen and Dean and formerly occupied by a medical clinic, "will next be home to a very intriguing-sounding restaurant."

Though landlord Michael Pintchik only dropped hints that a “very successful Manhattan restaurateur” would open a “Brooklyn-centric” restaurant, Myers offered a list of ten restaurateurs, and guessed right.

The Daily News reported yesterday:
Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, they of the expense account mecca Carbone, will open an offshoot of their Soho hero shop Parm near Barclays Center.
“We prefer the regional or local guy compared to the national tenant,” said landlord Michael Pintchik, who owns dozens of properties near Barclays Center. “It’s easy to do business we the nationals, but for the neighborhood to thrive and interesting we want some locals.”
The red sauce revivalists, who specialized…

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 R…

From the latest Atlantic Yards Construction Alert: Dean Street shutdown tomorrow for crane; 6th floor construction begins June 9 (after meeting); plus photos of modules

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards Construction Alert, dated May 26 issued today by Empire State Development after preparation by developer Forest City Ratner, Dean Street--presumably between Flatbush and Atlantic avenues--will be shut down tomorrow "for jumping of crane," or extending it to a greater height.

No details have been provided regarding the time and extent of the shutdown.

Also, though previously the delivery and erection of 6th floor modules for the B2 modular tower was supposed to commence in June, it won't start until June 9. That means that no one at the next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting, on June 3, will be in a position to complain.

(The tower was supposed to be finished by December 2014 but has been delayed a year due to problems in production. Now Forest City Ratner's new joint venture partner, the Greenland Group, has said the next three towers will be built conventionally.)

From the alert

Below, I've excerpted …

The transactional relationship between Bruce Ratner & Al D'Amato: $3 million plus a curious contribution

The transactional relationship between Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner, a self-described liberal Democrat, and political operative Al D'Amato, the former Republican Senator, is more extensive than previously reported.

Yesterday I wrote about how a sequence suggests a campaign contribution from Ratner and his wife to D'Amato's Renew New York PAC, seemingly a personal kitty for D'Amato, seemed to be routed to Nassau County executive Ed Mangano, who endorsed Ratner's Nassau Coliseum deal and remains key to future negotiations. (See graphic at bottom.)

I also wrote about D'Amato's city/state lobbying and federal lobbying on behalf of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

All told, Forest City Ratner has paid D'Amato's Park Strategies more than $3 million for lobbying and consultation related to Atlantic Yards and the Nassau Coliseum.

Sequence suggests Ratner donation to D'Amato PAC was routed to Nassau County executive key to Coliseum deal

The transactional relationship between Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner, a self-described liberal Democrat, and political operative Al D'Amato, the former Republican Senator, is more extensive than previously reported. Beyond the article below about a curious campaign contribution, also see description of D'Amato's city/state lobbying and federal lobbying on behalf of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Forest City Ratner has paid D'Amato's Park Strategies more than $3 million for lobbying and consultation related to Atlantic Yards and the Nassau Coliseum.

Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner, who last August won the nod to revamp the Nassau Coliseum, did not--according to state campaign finance records--contribute directly to the successful re-election campaign of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who favored Ratner's bid over that of rival Madison Square Garden.
However, it looks as if Ratner and his wife, Pam Lipkin, indirectly gave Mangano's campaig…

Park Strategies' state/city lobbying & consultation on Atlantic Yards exceeds $1.7 million since 2009

The transactional relationship between Brooklyn developer Bruce Ratner, a self-described liberal Democrat, and political operative Al D'Amato, the former Republican Senator, is more extensive than previously reported. Beyond the article below about D'Amato's city/state lobbying on behalf of Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, also see coverage ofD'Amato's federal lobbying and a curious campaign contribution.  Forest City Ratner has paid D'Amato's Park Strategies more than $3 million for lobbying and consultation related to Atlantic Yards and the Nassau Coliseum.

Atlantic Yards developer has spent at least $1.7 million even more to pay Park Strategies for state/city lobbying and consultation on Atlantic Yards: at least $1.7 million since 2009. It's not clear exactly what they lobbied about, but it looks like Park Strategies had a hand in Forest City's 2009 renegotiation of the deal to buy Vanderbilt Yard development rights.

The includes $5000 monthl…