Monday, June 30, 2014

J.Kidd back where he belongs? Nets' coach, leaving for Milwaukee, returns to the tabloid back pages

Nets' Coach Jason Kidd, losing a power grab with the Nets, is leaving for the Milwaukee Bucks after one season. The Nets will get two second-round draft picks.

So much for that happy Nets email barely more than a year ago (right). And another reminder: basketball is a business.

Mike Vaccaro in the Post, From greatest to grating, Kidd’s legacy forever tarnished
But none of them have willfully tried to mangle their legacies, the way Kidd has. None of them have dared the same fans they used to thrill to despise them — or, worse, to try to forget them.
It was graceless enough the way Kidd left the franchise the first time... Kidd II is something else altogether, an absolutely blind power grab that completely ignores the fact the only reason Kidd got the job here in the first place is because of the royal place he has in the Nets’ team history (which, admittedly, is akin to being the best chef in a freshman dorm).
It was always an uncomfortable balancing act. The Nets knew better than anyone else what a challenge Kidd was — at best, call it “quirky,” at worst call it sociopathic — and could well have said: “Thanks for the memories. See you when we raise the jersey.” They did not. They hired him, and snickered at how they may have stolen him clean away from the Knicks, and rejoiced in the attendant publicity and then watched Kidd act as a coach with every ounce of the stubbornness he displayed as a player.... But how much time will Kidd need to recuperate his image with the Nets?
Maybe he can keep his calendar clear for 2044.
In the meantime? Prokhorov grew up in Soviet Russia. He knows how the State used to “edit” its history books. Maybe the number stays. But it’s safe to say Jason Kidd may soon become the first icon in NBA history to become a non-person.


Update, July 1, back page


FAQ on new Atlantic Yards housing deal: how 65% of units in two all-affordable towers would go to $100K+ cohort promised only 20%+ of subsidized housing

The devil is always in the details (and this will be updated, as more details emerge).

And the agreement announced Friday to expedite affordable housing for Atlantic Yards and also set up a new subsidiary regarding the project deserves a close and careful look, especially given some misleading and uninformed press coverage.

Will the two new Atlantic Yards towers, filled with 100% subsidized units, go to the neediest?

Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
Well, they will provide 180 units to households defined as low-income under federal regional guidelines. Those low-income households would be above the median income for Brooklyn as a whole, though not the median income for the areas closest to the project. So those units will help some people in the Prospect Heights area remain. That's enough of a justification for some who negotiated the overall agreement, as noted below.

However, in the new towers, 390 of 600 units, or 65%, would go to households earning more than $100,000, likely paying over $3000 in rent for a two-bedroom unit (and proportionally less for smaller units). That's divided up into 50% to the highest income cohort and 15% to the second-highest income cohort.

The highest-income cohort is only supposed to get 20% of the affordable housing. Ditto for the second highest-income cohort, for which, in these two towers, the income eligibility is stretched (to 145% of Area Median Income) to a level that was originally supposed to be in the highest-income cohort.

That 65% figure is nearly double the current (2011) percentage of households earning $100,000, 34.5%, in the 3/4-mile study area around the project site, according to the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS(.

In the graphic above right, ironically enough, $100,000+ is specifically designed "market rate."

So, given the shift to the more expensive subsidized units, will these towers accelerate gentrification or stem it?

However much the towers include all-subsidized units, the 65% figure would continue the shift toward higher-income residents. (Without Atlantic Yards, the percentage of $100,000+ households would go up to 40.7%. With Atlantic Yards, if built over 25 years, the percentage would rise to 42.9%. I'm not sure what it would be if Atlantic Yards is built over 11 years.)

If the all-affordable towers confirmed to the promised Atlantic Yards configuration--40% low-income, rather than 30% as in these towers, plus more moderate-income and lower middle-income units--the shift would be moderated.

At least 72% of the Atlantic Yards units--the 2250 market-rate rentals, the 1930 condos, and the 450 rentals in the highest affordable income "band" (plus some percentage of the next "band")-- would go to households earning over $100,000.

So Atlantic Yards, however much it adds density/capacity to accommodate more low-income households, will continue a trend to include more wealthier residents.

Given that only 65% of the units in the two all-affordable buildings will be for households earning six figures, that's a mild improvement compared with the overall project configuration--but not the overall configuration of the affordable housing.

But the configuration in the first two towers is not much different from the first tower, already under construction, which has 50% market-rate units and then 50% affordable units spread evenly over five "bands."

Also, along with the two all-affordable buildings, Forest City will construct two luxury towers. So that will skew things further.

If the all-affordable towers confirmed to the promised configuration, with a greater percentage of lower-income units, moderate-income units, and less costly middle-income units, they'd make more of a difference.

How can this be?

Because the city and state can count "affordable units" without looking carefully at the income "bands" being served.

What's promised in the settlement?

Completion of all 2,250 affordable apartments by May 2025 (with penalties for non-performance). Start of construction of at least 590 (but reported at 600) affordable apartments within 12 months, with penalties for non-performance. Creation of an Empire State Development subsidiary, including locally-appointed directors, to monitor compliance with all project commitments.

How significant is that May 2025 deadline?

It is, and it isn't. Forest City Ratner, after long promising that the project would be completed in a decade, at the end of 2009 got the state to agree to set 2035 as an "outside date" before it could lose the project. There were specific timetables for only four towers and the arena.

So will the project be built "ten years early" or "ten years ahead of schedule," as some news coverage suggests?

No. It would be built ten years ahead of the current final deadline, but six years after the long-promised timetable, after the project was re-approved in 2009. But even Forest City says that it always intended to build Atlantic Yards faster than 25 years (after saying that ten years was never supposed to be the timetable).

Is there a meaningful penalty to enforce the timetable?

For each of the 2250 units not built by 2025, Forest City and its joint venture partner, the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group, would have to pay $2000 a month.

That's a lot. Is there a loophole?

Of course. The Development Agreement allows the developer to invoke an "Affordable housing subsidy unavailability" to excuse delays.

So wouldn't the deadline instead put pressure on the city (and state) to allocate direct and indirect housing subsidies?

Exactly. So Atlantic Yards may get priority over other projects. It's always been questionable whether there would be enough subsidies for Atlantic Yards without impinging on subsidies for other projects.

Is the $5 million penalty for delay in the next two buildings meaningful?

Not really. There are already $5 million penalties in the Development Agreement for delay on the next two towers around the arena. This new agreement shifts the $5 million obligation to different buildings.

While proponents said it accelerates project milestones for the second and third residential buildings, it actually moves up the deadline for only the third building, by 18 months. But Forest City and Greenland were already planning to build that tower faster.

What does that change in the penalty obscure?

Forest City is actually building more slowly on the arena block. Rather than start a second arena block tower by December and a third two years later, it must start its second arena block tower by next June.

That allows cranes at the site of B3 to be used for the arena's green roof in the meantime, as indicated in the graphic above.

Didn't Greenland say they wanted to finish Atlantic Yards in eight years?

They did. Now they will aim to do it in 11 years.

What's the danger of moving fast?

Well, given past history of construction violations, neighbors worry about opportunities to cut corners. Greenland is notably aggressive. “In China we may step on somebody else’s feet, but so what?" Greenland's Ifei Chang has said, in another context. "Sometimes somebody else will step on mine. It’s all good. I won’t sue them.”

Mayor de Blasio was asked Friday, "Can you speak about the city's role in the Atlantic Yards affordable housing deal, speeding up that timeline, and how that project now fits into your affordable housing game plan?"

"Well, it's an important part of it," he responded. "Our Deputy Mayor, Alicia Glen, is famously an aggressive negotiator. I gave her the instruction to go and ensure that the long-awaited affordable housing at Atlantic Yards would happen as soon as possible. Now I'm someone who supported that project from the beginning, and believed it could be pivotal to ensuring economic diversity in that area in Brooklyn, the area I come from. But the pace of that affordable housing has just plain been too slow, and we were not going to see that pattern continue. By the way, the state of New York felt the same way. So I feel very good about where we stand now, that affordable housing is going to start right away, that two buildings, fully affordable, will be built in the next few years, and then there's an aggressive plan thereafter. And it will certainly contribute greatly to our overall affordable housing effort."

Will this "contribute greatly to our overall affordable housing effort"?

Well, it allows de Blasio to add to the totals he wants to compile. How much will help the neighborhoods around it is another question. The mayor's stated plan is to deliver only 11% of affordable units--not 65%--to middle-income households.

Is the city getting a bargain on these two towers?

They say so, but it's far more complicated. Glen told the Times that the city will provide a cash subsidy of $11.75 million for each building with 300 units of affordable housing, a major improvement on the Bloomberg administration's investment of $11.6 million for 182 affordable units in the first tower. (That's apparently a New York City Housing Development Corporation second mortgage.)

But that doesn't address the amount of tax-exempt bonds allocated or, crucially, the difference in affordability between the first tower and the next two.

What do you mean?

As reported by Crain's, of the 600 units in the next two towers, 5% will be for families earning up to 40% of AMI Area Median Income), 25% for those earning 60% of AMI, 5% for those earning 100% of AMI, 15% for those earning 145% of AMI, and 50% for those earning up to 165% of AMI. (The lower range has not been reported yet.)

That distribution differs from the configuration in the Housing Memorandum of Understanding that Forest City signed in 2005 with ACORN, which divides the units into five bands: two low-income bands, 30-40% and 40-50% of AMI; one moderate-income band of 60-100% of AMI; and two middle-income bands, 100-140% and 140-160% of AMI.

Each band represents 450 units. While the top band should represent 20% of the affordable units, for the next two towers, it will represent at least 50%. Similarly, while the two low-income bands should represent 40% of the affordable units, in the next two towers they will represent 30% of the affordable units.

Is that kosher?

Despite the Housing MOU, such changes are not barred by the the Development Agreement Forest City signed with the state, which allows more flexibility, as long as affordable housing units fit within the range of current city/state programs. In other words, it's OK to go up to 60% of AMI (even 80%) for low-income groups and 165% (even 175%) for middle-income groups. On the Upper West Side, it can even go up to 230%.

Isn't the AMI skewed, because the federal government also uses wealthy suburban counties? 

Very much so. The Brooklyn median income, in 2011, was $46,126. The 2013 regional AMI is $85,900. That said, the 2011 median income in the study area was $77,363, a rise of 12.4% in 12 years.  
Didn't Forest City meet that MOU configuration in the first tower, B2?

Yes, in terms of income distribution. However, Forest City promised that 50% of the affordable units, in floor area, would go to two- and three-bedroom units. The first tower falls far short, with no three-bedroom units and some 20% two-bedroom units.

Will the next two towers have more two- and three-bedroom units?

That's likely, according to public statements. But the numbers haven't surfaced yet.

How does the first tower, B2, look in terms of income eligibility?



Income eligibility for the next two Atlantic Yards towers, based on 2013 AMI

Calculations by Atlantic Yards Report
To what extent do these two new towers address the affordable housing crisis targeted by BrooklynSpeaks and the Fifth Avenue Committee, in their challenge to Atlantic Yards?

Only in part.

To what extent do these two new towers address the affordable housing crisis targeted by ACORN when it signed the housing deal in 2005?

“The affordable units will be made available to all Brooklyn residents, some of whom may even have been displaced by the market forces that led to the gentrification of this very neighborhood over the past 20 years,” ACORN Executive Director Bertha Lewis said at the time. “It transforms a community that has been out of reach for all but the wealthiest New Yorkers." 

It's safe to say the transformation is far more attenuated. That said, Lewis has blamed project opponents for delays that kept the housing from being built sooner. (I'd say there are multiple sources of delays, including the recession and Forest City's unrealistic plans, along with legal challenges.)

Was the public misled regarding the new agreement?

I think so. The original press coverage, and press releases emphasized the new timetable and the all-affordable buildings without explaining who'd be eligible to live in them.

Would you have been more critical of the agreement in your interview Friday on WNYC had you know the configuration of affordability?

Yes.

Did BrooklynSpeaks and the Fifth Avenue Committee, as well as the elected officials and other community groups endorsing the agreement, know of/endorse (and/or push back on) the income configuration in the next two all-affordable towers?

Update: Gib Veconi of BrooklynSpeaks, in a Twitter exchange, acknowledged they did not know the income details of the units in the all-affordable towers announced last Friday:
Gib Veconi ‏@GibVeconi 2h
Good job @AYReport explaining role of potential @BklynSpeaks suit 2 accelerate #affordableHousing at #AtlanticYards http://wnyc.org/2CefY
Norman Oder ‏@AYReport 2h
@GibVeconi Agree it played significant role. But still question how much leverage @BklynSpeaks had/used, given housing details that surfaced
Gib Veconi ‏@GibVeconi 1h
@AYReport #FairHousing claims r based on race, not income. Affordability bands in NYC subsidy policy not in potential lawsuit scope.
Norman Oder ‏@AYReport 1h
@GibVeconi Thks4 for clarification, but did u/FAC know of/agree 2 income configuration in 2 all-affordable buildings? Big departure from MOU
Gib Veconi‏@GibVeconi
@AYReport Was not privy to those details, but AYCDC [Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation]should oversee fulfilling affordability commitments on total 2,250 units going forward.
Norman Oder ‏@AYReport 52m
@GibVeconi OK. AYCDC role is progress. But how do 390/600 $100K+ affordable units address gentrification issues you've eloquently raised?
@AYReport 180 units 4 <= 60% AMI = big acceleration. Yes need more, but getting these now matters 4 ppl facing displacement pressure.
Norman Oder ‏@AYReport 33m
@GibVeconi I hear u, but isn't there big tradeoff if rest of affordable units skew upward? BkSpeaks pr emphasized total aff. housing package
Norman Oder ‏@AYReport 28m
@GibVeconi Also note: low-income units = 40% of total affordable in #AtlanticYards, but only 30% in next two towers. Another tradeoff.
Gib Veconi ‏@GibVeconi 24m
@AYReport same tradeoff if not mistaken. See previous reply re AYCDC.

In other words, Veconi thinks that the acceleration of low income units--there were 73 in the first tower, and now there will be 90 in each of the next two towers--is worth the deal. It's certainly valuable, but as I pointed out, BrooklynSpeaks in its press release emphasized the entire affordable housing package, not just the low-income units.

Update: Michael Cairl of the Park Slope Civic Council responded to my query:
When the PSCC discussed this we were informed in general terms about the AMI distribution but not to this level of detail. But it did not affect the vote to endorse the settlement; what the PSCC Board as a whole was interested in, and the basis of the vote, were the expedited delivery of 600 affordable housing units with robust performance guarantees, and the fact that for the first time the community will have a voice in the governance of at least the affordable housing component of the project.
The first three Atlantic Yards towers would include 336 units (36 in the first tower, plus 300 in the next two) for the highest-income subsidized units. The Housing MOU promises 450 units total in this band. Does that mean only 114 more such units will be built?

I don't know, but it merits watching. The pattern so far points to far more units in this highest affordable-income band.

What brought the settlement around?

Well, the mayor and the governor each took credit. Clearly the lawsuit that threatened to scuttle the Greenland deal was a significant factor--though, given that the affordable configuration in the next two towers skews toward the better off, the community groups that negotiated the settlement had less leverage than I thought.

You wrote that the changes were pushed by groups that sought more project transparency, but the agreement was negotiated in secret and the outline--not the specific terms--were public as a fait accompli, less than a day before ratification by the board of Empire State Development. 

Now that we knew the specific terms, the lack of transparency is even more troubling. Public Advocate Letitia James, who told a TV interviewer, "To negotiate this deal behind my back is totally unacceptable," sounded both political and prescient.

(Yes, she's a longtime opponent of Atlantic Yards. But she's also a supporter of affordable housing and was front and center when de Blasio announced his affordable housing plan in Brooklyn.)

Did the groups negotiating the settlement value affordable housing and accountability the same?

They say so, but the devil's in the details, and there are more details about the affordable housing. That's one reason the Dean Street Block Association registered its exceptions and left the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC), which signed the settlement. The Dean Street group had been in the larger PHNDC for a decade.

We don't know the budget for the subsidiary, for example. It's not clear why it should take six months to establish. But it should add accountability, especially compared to the current bi-monthly Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee.

How does the governance structure differ from that once sought?

Well, for several years the plan has been for an entity controlled by the governor, as the new Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation would be.

Of the 14 directors, responsible for monitoring the delivery of public commitments related to the Project by making policy recommendations to the ESD Directors:
o Nine (9) board members, including the Chair, will be appointed by the New York Governor (Governor must appoint Chair per statute). Of these nine (9), no more than five (5) may be City or State employees;
o The additional five (5) board members will be appointed by New York City Mayor and local elected officials:
o 1 appointed by the Mayor of the City of New York
o 1 appointed by the Brooklyn Borough President
o 1 appointed by the Speaker of the New York State Assembly 
o 1 appointed by the President Pro Tem of the New York State Senate
o 1 appointed by the Speaker of the New York City Council

But when proposed in 2007, the project oversight entity, as shown in the slide at right, was to have 50% of the board appointed by the city and local elected officials.

Gib Veconi notes (as Michelle de la Uz also pointed out to me), "No NYS government agency or subsidiary is controlled by any elected official other than the Governor."

From the original ask in 2007 (which Veconi says in 2008 moved from theory to practice, acknowledging control by governor) :
The sponsors of BrooklynSpeaks.net believe that two new structures should be created in order to meaningfully involve stakeholders from the local community prospectively, coordinate effectively between the City and the State agencies, and generally improve the quality and accountability of project decision-making.
• A Project Planning and Oversight Entity should be created. This could be established as an ESDC subsidiary, comparable to Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation or Queens West, both of which were created specifically to involve local representation in the decision-making for those projects. The Project Planning and Oversight Entity would include as part of its board representatives from the ESDC, City agencies responsible for planning and provision of infrastructure, as well as local elected officials. This Planning and Oversight Entity would be responsible for reviewing and approving all changes to the project and policy surrounding it. The entity would also ensure mitigations were being implemented according to agreed-upon standards, and that the actual delivery of public benefits under the project was consistent with the stated goals of the project.
• A Stakeholder Council should be chartered by ESDC to provide a forum for community dialog and input into the project on a continuing basis. This Council could establish working committees to address particular categories of project issues (e.g., transportation, public services, open space, urban design, workforce development, etc.). The representatives of the Council would include members of local Community Boards and leaders of community organizations and civic groups, including the signatories of the CBA. The Stakeholder Council would serve in an advisory capacity to the Project Planning and Oversight Entity.
The establishment of representative decision-making and community advisory bodies would help make the Atlantic Yards project a genuine public/private partnership. However, their simple establishment alone will not resolve the flaws in the project, including its overwhelming density and height of its buildings; its lack of a transportation plan; and its failure to address the housing needs of thousands of local families whose incomes would not qualify them for housing in the new project. These flaws are the direct result of Atlantic Yards having been conceived and planned without adequate public participation, and can only begin to be addressed as Atlantic Yards moves forward if public is meaningfully engaged in the decision-making for the project.

Barclays Center releases July 2014 event calendar: family shows on seven days, two concerts, one celebrity hoops game

It's again a summer lull at the Barclays Center, though construction around it should proceed quite busily.

According to the July 2014 event calendar circulated by the Community Affairs Office, there will be 11 family shows over seven days, two Katy Perry concerts, and one celebrity basketball challenge.

The family shows--Walking With Dinosaurs, Cirque du Soleil--are expected to draw only 5,000 people, while the Katy Perry concerts could draw 13,000. For some reason, the event calendar now lists VIP Access Tours; those are relatively small groups of people.

Unlike in 2013, a weekly greenmarket has not been announced.


July 2013

The event calendar in July 2013 was even more sparse: one concert (Further), a wrestling event, and five days of family shows, encompassing seven Cirque du Soleil performances.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nets, furthering ties to Brooklyn, unveil (branded) training facility on roof of Sunset Park warehouse

On Thursday, 6/26/14, the Brooklyn Nets formally announced plans to renovate a Sunset Park warehouse on Industry City on 39th Street into a rooftop practice facility, the awkwardly named (because they have to sell naming rights) Hospital for Special Surgery Training Center.

It's supposed to open in the fall of 2015. The price tag is estimated at $45-$50 million.

The move should make the team's connection to Brooklyn much more firm, and is likely to induce some players, who now live in Manhattan to manage practice in New Jersey (at the PYN Center in East Rutherford) and games in Brooklyn, to move to Brooklyn. (Downtown towers? Bay Ridge? DUMBO? Atlantic Yards itself?)

(One irony: talking up the practice facility on Thursday was Coach Jason Kidd, who, after losing an apparent power play to gain more control of basketball operations, is likely leaving for the Milwaukee Bucks.

According to Daily News columnist Mike Lupica, the move--given the Nets' mixed record and limited upside--might be a wise thing for Kidd.)

Changing the Sunset Park waterfront

The move has been touted as part of Industry City owner Jamestown Properties' long-term plans to gentrify the industrial complex, as with Chelsea Market in Manhattan. DNAInfo reported:
The 16-building, 30-acre property has a growing roster of artists, home d├ęcor designers, cut-and-sew shops and other tenants, like a vodka distillery that offers tours of its space and the popular Hamptons vintage furniture storeRuby Beets.
On weekends, Mister Sunday brings family- and pet-friendly outdoor dance parties to one of its courtyards, and Rooftop Films hosts indie movie screenings atop two buildings that overlook the New York Harbor. Industry City is host to a growing number of artsy events, like this weekend’s NYC Urban Tattoo Convention, bringing 150 local and international artists to showcase their skills for three days of ink.
...Industry City also redesigned the loading docks between two of its buildings to create a new courtyard where tenants and visitors can get, for instance, food from Country Boy Tacos and Sottocasa Pizzeria or have sangria and beer from Botanica's pop-up bar.
“Long-term, our vision for retail will include more than the food that is produced on-site,” Kimball said, “the idea being that what’s made here should also be sold here.”
Well, there's good highway access and may be a new ferry, which would help bring visitors. But it's a long way from the subway (one long express stop on the D or N from Barclays Center), so I think the Meatpacking District comparison is overblown.

The press release

Brooklyn Nets Announce Hospital for Special Surgery Training Center in Brooklyn
Team’s World-Class Training Center to Open for the 2015-16 NBA Season
Brooklyn, NY – At a press conference this morning, the Brooklyn Nets announced their plans to build a new state-of-the-art training center in Brooklyn, featuring panoramic views of New York Harbor, which will serve as the team’s practice site starting with the 2015-16 season. Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) will be the naming rights partner for the facility, which will be known as Hospital for Special Surgery Training Center. The Nets Basketball Operations Department will be relocating from its current practice site in East Rutherford, NJ, and will be bringing more than 60 full-time jobs to Brooklyn.
The privately funded training center will occupy 70,000 square feet on the eighth floor and rooftop of a historic waterfront warehouse in Industry City situated on 39th Street in the Sunset Park neighborhood. Located one subway stop from Barclays Center, the facility will boast world-class amenities, which will include two full basketball courts, a weight room, a training pool and two hydro pools, a rooftop entertainment space, an 18-seat multimedia theater, 3,000 square feet of hospitality/players’ lounge space, and a media interview/workroom. The exterior design, consisting of dark metal, brick, and a wide expanse of glass, is set against the interior finishes which combine an industrial vibe with softer natural materials like recycled wood and tiles, to create a harmonious spa-like environment. The result is an overall design which celebrates Brooklyn’s gritty manufacturing history while reflecting its eco-friendly mentality.
“I am thrilled to see the Nets complete their move to Brooklyn by building their state of the art practice and training facility in Sunset Park and creating over 200 jobs in the process,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “And I applaud them for ensuring the local community also has a home in this facility — with job fairs for Sunset Park residents, community events for young people, and investments in the neighborhood's quality of life.”
“We are thrilled to have the HSS Training Center become the new Nets' practice facility,” said Irina Pavlova, President of Onexim Sports and Entertainment. “With its proximity to Barclays Center and the vibrant Sunset Park neighborhood, Industry City is the perfect location for it. Now, our arena, training center and offices will all be together in this great borough. The team’s ownership is committed to making the Brooklyn Nets a championship caliber team, and a best in class team deserves a best in class training center.”
As part of the naming rights entitlements, HSS will receive branding on the interior and exterior of the facility and the Nets practice jerseys will feature the HSS logo. The hospital will also have the opportunity to host experiential events for patients and physicians at the facility, which will include participation from Brooklyn Nets players, coaches, and strength and conditioning staff. Dr. Riley J. Williams, III, a sports medicine surgeon at HSS, has served as the team’s Medical Director since the 2005-06 season and will continue to serve in that function, while also expanding his role to include Head Orthopedic Surgeon with the Brooklyn Nets.
HSS is also building on its nine-year relationship with the team by becoming the Official Hospital of the Brooklyn Nets beginning with the 2014-15 NBA season. As the official hospital, HSS will receive signage, player appearances, integration into a grassroots community marketing activation, and specialized content on BrooklynNets.com.
“As the nation’s leading orthopedic hospital, HSS is deeply rooted in the growth and development of New York City,” said Louis A. Shapiro, President and CEO of HSS. “We have grown with the Nets from East Rutherford, to Newark, and finally to Brooklyn. We are thrilled to be a part of this landmark project by putting our name to HSS Training Center, while continuing to provide Nets players with the best in musculoskeletal care.”
“Our partnership with HSS is an ideal fit,” said Brett Yormark, CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center. “We bring together two recognized brands defined by performance, community commitment, and global reach. HSS Training Center will be serving world-class athletes, while also making a difference in the borough as we utilize the facility to mentor and inspire young Brooklynites.”
“In Brooklyn, we’re ‘nothing but Nets’! It’s a ‘slam dunk’ to bring every member of our home team, including its entire staff, into our home borough,” said Eric L. Adams, Brooklyn Borough President. “Industry City and the greater Sunset Park community will benefit from a strong partnership with the Nets, and all Brooklynites will benefit from the boost in local employment and economic activity associated with the new practice and training center.”
“I am proud to welcome the Nets to Industry City and our Sunset Park neighborhood,” said Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who represents Sunset Park. “I look forward to working closely with the Nets to support our ongoing community work, from economic development to environmental justice to youth programming. I am committed to building a strong partnership with the team that fully integrates them in our vibrant community, which is home to hardworking immigrant families, community based organizations and industrial businesses.”
“The new HSS Training Center highlights the importance of sports medicine and performance training working seamlessly and collaboratively in the approach to player care,” said Dr. Williams. “NBA basketball is a physically challenging sport that is played over many months. A close knit relationship between the team and its medical personnel is vital to injury prevention, effective treatment and ultimately the professional athlete’s return to play.”
“As a former player and patient at HSS, and now a coach, I know the hospital provides an unmatched level of expertise and care,” said Jason Kidd, Head Coach of the Brooklyn Nets. “HSS Training Center will give us a competitive edge, providing a state-of-the-art facility for our players to get ready and be at their best.”
“In repositioning this relic of the industrial age into a home for a wide range of emerging and modern businesses, Industry City is becoming one of New York’s most dynamic properties,” said Glen Siegel, founder of Belvedere Capital, co-owner of Industry City. “The Nets’ investment here, and deepened commitment to the borough, will have a citywide impact for many years to come.”
In addition to serving as the training ground for the Brooklyn Nets, the facility will host youth basketball clinics, community events, and local business development functions. The team will also expand its role in the neighborhood by offering a job shadow program, internships, and Barclays Center job fairs for Sunset Park residents.
Construction on HSS Training Center will create between 150-200 union jobs and will begin in 2014. MANICA is the design architect and New York City firm Mancini Duffy is the architect of record.
Cushman & Wakefield, led by Bruce Mosler and Glenn Markman, served as a key advisor to the Nets on the leasing transaction.
In the press

The Daily News reported:
On the Sunset Park waterfront with a beautiful view of the city skyline, standing adjacent to its nearest place of business — a strip club called Peyton's Playpen — is an empty warehouse that represents the Nets' transformation to full-fledged Brooklynnites.
In about a year, they're cutting their last significant tie to New Jersey.
...The theme of Thursday's press conference was the location in Industrial City, and GM Billy King worked in a dig at the Knicks by noting that the Nets will be the only team to have its practice facility within the city limits (the Knicks practice in Greenburgh). Coach Jason Kidd cracked that he won't spill any sodas when it opens, before turning serious about the advantage in attracting free agents.
More links, from Nets Daily.

A video

Here's Onexim Sports and Entertainment President Irina Pavlova interviewed by NetsDaily:

Forest City grants $250,000 for tenant protection in Community Districts 2, 3, 6, and 8

One additional piece of the Atlantic Yards settlement announced Friday, according to a BrooklynSpeaks press release:
Finally, under the terms of a separate agreement with FCRC [Forest City Ratner Companies], the developer [via its Atlantic Yards Development Company, or AYDC] will contribute $250,000 towards a newly-created Atlantic Yards Tenant Protection Fund expected to be administered by the Brooklyn Community Foundation. The Fund will provide grants to local nonprofit organizations offering eviction prevention and anti-displacement services to low and moderate income residents of Brooklyn community districts 2, 3, 6 and 8.
That $250,000 is a one-time contribution. It's not an insignificant sum, and surely will do some good. But it's hardly a commitment on Forest City's part to help "solve Brooklyn's affordable housing crisis," as the developer once claimed Atlantic Yards would accomplish.

After all, the scale of the challenge is huge, given the number of landlords who are trying to move rent-stabilized units to market rates and the steady displacement and gentrification disclosed in the Atlantic Yards environmental review.

It's a relatively minor expenditure for Forest City Ratner, which spends far more on annual lobbying, for example, and need no longer fund groups like the now-defunct Community Benefits Agreement signatory Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, or BUILD.

Playing nice

As a condition to receiving funds, according to the letter below from Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin, grant recipients most promise that no funds received from the tenant protection fund will support "any lobbying or litigation efforts" in opposition to AYDC or its affiliates.

Also note that, while the agreement was signed with members of Brooklyn Speaks, Gilmarin has made sure that its affordable housing partner--the successor to ACORN--is included:
"As we have discussed, AYDC would like to include Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY), given its experience in housing matters and its participation in the Community Benefits Agreement dated June 27, 2005 between AYDC and various community groups, in an on-going dialogue with the community to develop a strategy which would address issues such as tenant assistance and economic integration."
MHANY, along with BrooklynSpeaks negotiators the Fifth Avenue Committee and the Pratt Area Community Council (which signed the settlement with Forest City) will establish guidelines for the fund. It's not clear if the groups--which are qualified for such tenant work--are eligible for grants.

Forest City Commits $250K to tenant displacement

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Reports on $5M fines for delayed towers obscure switch; Forest City can slow construction on arena block while green roof is built

Like a game of Telephone, an un-analytical New York Times report yesterday on the $5 million fines faced by Forest City Ratner for delay on the next two towers tumbled around the journalistic food chain, suggesting that somehow the fines are new and meaningful.

They're new only in part, and not so meaningful.

In fact, the revised formula allows Forest City to delay building a second tower (B3) on the arena block until 2015, providing crucial wiggle room while it pursues unanticipated construction of a green roof over the Barclays Center.

And the formula allows Forest City to evade building a third tower on the arena block promptly. Instead, it can fulfill its obligation by building where construction is less complicated.

It does require Forest City to start two towers within a year, rather than one by December 2014 and another by December 2016. But that schedule conforms to what Forest City had already public pledged.

(Far more meaningful are other penalties negotiated, notably a $2,000/month penalty for each affordable housing unit delayed past May 2025.)

A report cascades

The Times reported yesterday, in Plan Expedited for Affordable Housing Near Barclays Center in Brooklyn:
Under the agreement, the next two residential buildings — a total of 600 units — will be entirely affordable housing. If the developer fails to begin construction within the next year, it must pay what would essentially be a fine of up to $5 million.
That cascaded around. Capital New York offered:
Under the new agreement, the development authority will have the ability to levy large fines again Forest City for not staying on schedule. For example, the authority could impose a fine of up to $5 million if the developer doesn’t begin construction within the next year.
Newsday reported:
The developer, Forest City Ratner, has agreed that if construction doesn't begin in the time frame, it would cost the company a penalty of as much as $5 million.
Brownstoner summarized it:
State officials, the de Blasio administration and local community groups have wrangled a deal with Forest City Ratner to accelerate the delivery of affordable housing at Atlantic Yards or pay a fine as high as $5 million, The New York Times reported.
Curbed re-blogged it as:
Specifically, 11 years after the whole project kicked off, Forest City Ratner has formally—like, in an actual agreement with the state, with the risk of a $5 million fine if they don't follow it—agreed to speed up construction.
I noted in passing that the incentives were already present for the second tower to begin two years after the first tower, but were accelerated by 18 months to June 2015 for the third tower. But I didn't drill down.

Looking more closely

From the Empire State Development Board materials and letter:
Second, ESD will require that two affordable buildings, totaling not less than 590 units of affordable housing, be built in the next phase of Project development: Building 14 (B14) will be commenced by December 31, 2014 and Building 3 (B3) will be commenced by June 30, 2015. ESD will utilize existing enforcement mechanisms to require prompt completion of these two buildings. The existing Liquidated Damages in the Development Agreement for failure to commence the first three buildings on the Arena Block (i.e., $5M each over a 12 month period) will apply to B2 (as currently contemplated) as the first Required Building, B14 as the second Project Building, and B3 as the third Project Building... For the purposes of Development Agreement Section 8.6(d)(i), the “Second Commencement Deadline” and the “Third Commencement Deadline” will be December 31, 2014 and June 30, 2015, respectively.
(Emphases added)
According to the Development Agreement, the first tower was required to start within three years from the project Effective Date, which was in May 2010. It launched in December 2012.

The second tower on the arena block was supposed to start two years after the first tower, or by December 2014, with the penalty $5 million over the course of the year.

That's not happening.

Shifting obligations

Rather, by December 2014, Forest City plans to start B14, which is on the southeast block now used as a surface parking lot.

The state has allowed Forest City to shift its obligation from the arena block to the southeast block, which is terra firma (unlike the railyard, which requires a deck) and is not the subject of separate construction (as with the green roof).

Now Forest City is supposed to start B3, at the southeast corner of the arena--once the cranes for the green roof are gone--by June 2015, though the Times said it would start in March.,

In other words, the revised agreement would penalize Forest City $5 million if it doesn't do what it already plans to do.

Note that, by substituting B14 for a building on the arena block, the agreement excludes B4, the tower at the northeast corner of the arena block, from the lockstep formula of construction two years after its predecessor.

Without the change, Forest City would have had to start B3 by December 2014 and B4 by December 2016.

The original fine





How the Times again got used: No, affordable housing won't be "10 Years Early" and 25 years was not supposed to be schedule

It was another public relations coup for Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, with assistance from the New York Times, notably real estate development reporter Charles Bagli, who seems to pay much closer attention to other projects.

The Times reported yesterday, in Plan Expedited for Affordable Housing Near Barclays Center in Brooklyn:
Now, the developer, Forest City Ratner, facing pressure from public officials and community groups, has signed a formal agreement with the state, which oversees the project, to put housing construction into high gear and finish 2,250 affordable apartments by 2025, 10 years ahead of the current schedule.
While it's accurate to say the plan has been expedited, it's wrong to claim it's "10 years ahead of the current schedule" and even more misleading to say--as the sub-headline said in print (above)--that the 2,250 units would arrive "10 Years Early."

The project was always supposed to take ten years, and that timetable was expected when Atlantic Yards was approved in 2006 and 2009, though with the latter a potential delay to 15 years was acknowledged. A 2025 deadline means it would be five years late--though ten years earlier than the extended deadline.

The state agency overseeing the project, Empire State Development (ESD), in late 2009 set 25 years as an outside date. (CEO/Chairman Bruce Ratner then claimed that ten years “was never supposed to be” the timetable, as the buildout was market-dependent.)

The state withheld the Development Agreement setting that date, and the developer and ESD ultimately lost a lawsuit requiring a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to evaluate the impacts of delays.

As Forest City executive Jane Marshall said at the 4/30/14 hearing on the SEIS, "This 25-year outside date was never viewed by Forest City as a proposed construction schedule but as a date by which we failed. We have always intended to complete the project much, much sooner than that and we will."

Two months ago, however, there were no penalties if they didn't complete the project "much sooner than" 25 years. Now there are penalties for not finishing by 2025.

Times acquiescence, redux

The Times's acquiescence in the developer's framing is particularly notable because, when this blog reported on the extension to 25 years, the Times ignored the issue (though I kept criticizing the Times for the omission). 

For those of us with long Atlantic Yards memories, it recalls the Times's helpful framing--in an article co-written by Bagli--in a front-page 9/5/06 lead story (!) overhyping the news that Forest City planned a 6% to 8% cut in the size of Atlantic Yards.

Surely the Times would not have placed that article on the front page had it include the essential context--only later reported--that the cut would bring the size of Atlantic Yards back to that originally proposed.

Similarly, the new timetable would be closer--but not back to--that originally proposed.

Disconnect with needy? In two new 100% affordable Atlantic Yards towers, 50% of units would go to households earning up to $142K [updated]

Note correction on income ranges, in second paragraph. 

There's always a catch, isn't there?

It turns out that some 65% of the units in the two all-affordable buildings to be expedited for Atlantic Yards would be weighted toward middle-income households earning at least $125,000 for a family of four. Most of those middle-income units, and 50% of the each building, would go to households earning more than up to $142,000 for a family of four.

[Updated and corrected: While I originally wrote "more than $142,000," that was incorrect if we look at 2013 incomes, since that's the approximate income ceiling. It is quite possible that the income floor will have risen to or near $142,000 by 2016.]

If they're paying 30% of their income in rent, a two-bedroom unit could easily cost more than $3,000. Smaller middle-income families, in a one-bedroom, would pay about 17% less, based on the pattern for the first tower.

That distribution of units departs severely from that long promised for Atlantic Yards, in which middle-income households would get only 40% of the affordable units.

Also, only 30% of the subsidized units in the next two towers would go to low-income households, though they've been promised 40% of the affordable rentals, or ultimately 900 of the 2250 affordable units.

The new configuration hollows out the center, leaving just 5% of the units in the two new towers for moderate income households, rather than the 20% long promised.

Departure from promises

While middle-income households may need a boost, such "workforce housing" is not why ACORN gathered its low-income followers to rally for the original Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed in 2005 with Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner.

Also, such households likely do not fit the profile of the potential plaintiffs (including a teacher's aide) gathered by the BrooklynSpeaks coalition for the planned housing discrimination lawsuit that forced the city, state, and Forest City to agree to expedite the affordable housing ten years faster than the 2035 "outside date" agreed to in 2009 after a ten-year buildout was long promised.

"[T]he community has been crying out for affordable housing now,” Michelle de la Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, told the Times. 

It's not clear if future towers would contain disproportional low-income units, or whether the promise will not hold.

The details

Crain's New York Business has the details:
The breakdown of the 600 units is as follows: 5% will be for families earning up to 40% of AMI [or $34,360 of the Area Median Income for a family of four), 25% for those earning 60% of AMI [or $51,540], 5% for those earning 100% of AMI (or $85,900], 15% for those earning 145% of AMI [or $124,555], and 50% for those earning up to 165% of AMI [or $141,735].
(Note that the ceiling for low-income households has been raised from the promised 50% of Area Median Income, or AMI, to 60%. Also note those numbers will rise significantly by the time the buildings open in 2016, at the earliest. The income ranges are adjusted for smaller or larger households.)

By weighting the affordable units towards those able to pay $3000 for a two-bedroom unit--a bargain for a new apartment near Downtown Brooklyn but hardly a service to the neediest--the city will make it easier for developer Forest City Ratner to profit without having to devote too large an amount of direct or indirect subsidies.

A configuration with more low- or moderate-income units would require more subsidies. But the city can still count these new units toward Mayor Bill de Blasio's ambitious goal to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.

I don't understand why de Blasio could say, "The agreement means two 100-percent affordable buildings will go in the ground starting next year, with units serving a more diverse range of families."

In an interview in 2007, when asked if those earning six figures should get subsidized housing, de Blasio responded, “Definitely below six figures. Absolutely below six figures. Over eighty [thousand] I don’t think is what I’m thinking about, although there may be some exceptions.”

A bargain?

Crain's reported:
Forest City Ratner will receive $11.8 million in city subsidies for each building. Under the Bloomberg administration, the developer had netted a similar amount for the construction of 181 affordable units in B2, the under-construction modular-building adjacent to the arena that will contain a total of 363 apartments when finished.
In essence, the city is paying the same amount of money for twice the number of affordable units. Mr. de Blasio called the investment “remarkable.”
I don't think the city is paying the same amount of money and getting twice as much because 1) the city is also allocating tax-exempt affordable housing bonds (unspecified, as of now) and 2) it's not getting the same distribution of affordable housing units.

Here's the distribution for the first tower.

Note that 40% of the affordable units would be low-income, with 50% of AMI (not 60%) as the upper bound. Also, 40% of the affordable units would be middle-income, split evenly between 100-140% of AMI and 140-160% of AMI, rather than weighted toward the upper band, as with the two new towers. And the upper band now stretches to 165% of AMI.

(None of the press releases issued yesterday revealed the income ranges. Public Advocate Letitia James yesterday told a TV interviewer, "To negotiate this deal behind my back is totally unacceptable." And while it's understandable that negotiators might exclude a longtime opponent of the project, none of the elected officials who endorsed this deal--including Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Assemblymember Walter Mosley, and Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Brad Lander--addressed the income distribution.)

Details emerge

The Daily News reported:
Most of the “affordable” housing units to be built at the long-stalled Atlantic Yards project will go to families making at least $100,000 a year — a reflection of the high cost of living in the city, officials said.
Nearly two-thirds — 65% — of the 600 units in the two planned buildings in Brooklyn are set aside for families of four making six figures and will have rents that start at around $2,600, under a deal to speed up construction at the site that Gov. Cuomo announced Friday.
There will be 300 units for families whose income is around $130,000 a year. 
Projected rents for first tower, B2, as of 2012
When it opens in 2015, rents will be higher
The two all-affordable buildings will open
after that, with no market-rate units
That's not merely a reflection of the high cost of living but a decision by the city to devote a finite amount of subsidy while still being able to claim the building is "affordable."

Despite the Daily News formulation, I doubt that 390 (65%) of the 600 units will go to families of four earning six figures, since that suggests that there would be 390 two-bedroom units.

It's unlikely that family-sized units, which are more expensive to build, will represent a majority of the buildings; the Housing MOU set a goal of 50%--in floor-area--for family-sized units.

Rather, I suspect that 390 units--ranging from studios to three-bedroom units--will go to the income bands that include families of four earning six figures. (Smaller households can earn less.)

Also, I think rents will go over $3,000.

Calculating rents

Rent is based on Area Median Income (AMI), a federal formula that does not rely on Brooklyn or even New York City income but wealthier suburban counties.

The Atlantic Yards Housing MOU set an upper bound at 160% of AMI--or, based on 2013 formulations, $137,440 for a family of four. However, city housing programs allow 165% or 175% of AMI, and the former is being used in this case.

Click to enlarge
Indeed, a document in the Atlantic Yards Development Agreement signed in 2009 contemplated multiple scenarios for the first tower, beyond the 50% market/50% scenario that was eventually adopted.

The configuration for the first tower, as indicated in the graphic at right, could have included 60% to 80% middle-income units, all considered affordable, at 165% of AMI.

These new towers fit that range, with 65% middle income units.

The rest of the units

As the Daily News reported:
...Moderate income families — who make between $67,000 and $100,681 a year — will get around 5% of the remaining units [30] and pay about $1,700 a month in rent.
And 180 units will go to families who make $30,000 to $40,000 a year. Their rents will be from $700 to $1,100.
The income mix currently contemplated

According to the Affordable Housing MOU, as shown in the graphic below, 20% of the overall rental units, or 40% of the affordable ones, would go to low-income households earning 30% to 50% of AMI.

Another 10% of total rentals, or 20% of affordable rentals, would go to moderate-income households earning 60% to 100% of AMI. And 20% of total rentals, or 40% of affordable rentals, would go to middle-income households earning 100% to 160% of AMI.

The figures below are based on 2005 AMI levels, which have shot up far faster than local incomes, which is one reason for the urgency of the housing deal.


The income mix originally promised

Note that the above chart represents one of three potential scenarios posited in 2005. When the housing deal was first announced, the chart below was presented as the scenario.

While the percentage of low-income housing was the same, there would have been twice as much moderate income housing--AMIs from 60% to 100%--and half as much middle-income housing, with AMIs over 100%. Also note that the AMI would be capped at 140% rather than 160%.

But this formulation, while attractive as a public relations strategy, was not in Forest City Ratner's economic interest.


The unhelpful Times

The Daily News and Crain's offer far more detail than the unhelpful New York Times scoop, which stated vaguely:
The new agreement specifies that a portion of affordable units would be for low-income families of four that make $48,000 or less, moderate-income families earning up to $88,000 a year, and middle-income families earning up to $104,000.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Testimony at ESD meeting on Atlantic Yards: "step in the right direction" and "significant change," say deal negotiators; closest neighbors still wary (video)

They were posing not for AYR but for a photographer
affiliated with the Fifth Avenue Committee
There was a kumbaya moment (right) after this morning's ritual approval by Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, of changes in the project plan pushed by a community coalition, including a faster timetable for affordable housing--15 years instead of 25 years, though the promise was long ten years--and a new entity in six months to channel community input and provide some oversight role.

At left is the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council's Gib Veconi, who only weeks ago slammed ESD for not taking steps to deliver the 2250 units of subsidized housing faster, and, in the white blouse is Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee, the chief negotiators with the city and state.

ESD Executive Director Kenneth Adams listens
At center, in the white slacks, is Ashley Cotton, Forest City Ratner's executive VP for external affairs, and at far right is Marion Phillips III of ESD. Also gathering were Marjona Jones of the Brown Community Development Corporation, next to Veconi; Daron Hudson, a plaintiff in the potential lawsuit that forced the state's hand; 52nd District Leader JoAnne Simon of the Boerum Hill Association, next to Cotton; and Deb Howard of the Pratt Area Community Council.

Despite the good feeling, even those who saluted the state and Forest City Ratner said that this was a first step, and it would take time to earn community trust.

The most forceful testimony came from the dissenters, Rhona Hetsrony and Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association, who said didn't think the safeguards announced would be enough to protect their block, which borders the construction site.

ESD executive director Kenneth Adams said, "Today marks an important milestone, kind of a turning point, for the Atlantic Yards project." He did not mention the impact of a threatened lawsuit on the agreement announced.

Reflections from de la Uz

After the meeting, I spoke with de la Uz--who's was the appointee of Bill de Blasio, when he was Public Advocate, to the City Planning Commission--about the deal. She said that the agreement does not address making the housing more affordable in terms of income "bands" ( or levels), which are typically a function of the city's financing tools and in this case also related to the Community Benefits Agreement.

She said they still believe the units should become more broadly affordable, given that the Brooklyn median income is well below the regional Area Median Income used as a standard in New York City.

I pointed out including 100% affordable buildings in a project that has 35% affordability means that there will be more 100% luxury buildings, thus departing from the 50/50 goal at the outset. (There will be 4500 rentals, 2250 of them subsidized; Forest City later added 1930 condos, of which 200 may be subsidized.)

"On balance, we thought it was critical to accelerate as many units as possible while also maintaining the  overall goal to have inclusion," said de la Uz, who indicated that Ismene Speliotis, who of the Mutual Housing Association of New York, who helped negotiate the original affordable housing deal on behalf of ACORN, was consulted during the negotiations.

What were the factors in pushing for the deal? Assemblyman Walter Mosley's reintroduction of a bill establishing governance was one factor, though de la Uz acknowledged that elected officials played no formal role in the negotiations, though they were briefed on the potential lawsuit, and the potential for a settlement.

"I think it's a confluence of events," she said, citing the recent testimony on the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement about community impacts and the impacts of delayed affordable housing. She praised ESD executive director Kenneth Adams for sitting through the entire April 30 hearing.

She also cited the the mayor's office, "and the alignment between 200,000 units of affordable housing that mayor wants to achieve and role this project plays.... Obviously, the need to close the Greenland in order for Forest City not to default was a portion of this."

What message does she have for the neighbors still wary? "I understand the desire for the state and FCRC to earn their trust before they give it," she said, acknowledging that the oversight is not as strong as once proposed but "I think we achieved what we were able to achieve." She noted that, according to ESD, there will be more local representation than in other subsidiaries.

Does she trust the state and Forest City now, after years of criticism? "I'm cautiously optimistic that their interest and our interests are more aligned than they've ever been," de la Uz responded.

Rhona Hetsrony and Peter Krashes

Hetsrony said the block association sent numerous letters calling for increased oversight.

"The oversight created," she said, "is not adequate to our concerns."

"The community doesn't have access to the governor. The developer has access to the governor," she said, noting the governor would control the new subsidiary.

“There is no one with any knowledge of Atlantic Yards who would expect an unsecured promise of future performance to be fulfilled, when so many promises haven’t been met,” said Hetsrony. “We're the ones being asked to bear the risk."



Krashes said, "The history of Atlantic Yards is that the devil is in the details.... What is delivered is rarely more than what is spelled out in written agreements and often is less.” He noted that "neighbor after neighbor has already detailed the noncompliance with environmental commitments," but they still have oversight to themselves.

"There's a difference between being pro-business and being pro-a-specific business," he said.

"Atlantic Yards is complicated, and there numerous categories of stakeholders," he said, suggesting that the threatened litigation and behind-the-scenes negotiation is not a public process runs the risk of emphasizing one category of interest over another.

He also asked to read a statement by another block association member, Wayne Bailey, who couldn't attend. "I'm truly at a loss that any agreement has been negotiated" without any clear remedies and penalties for violations of construction protocols but has "grave and specific" penalties regarding affordable housing."

Bailey, in his message, cited violations of hours of construction just in the past 12 hours.

The affable Adams said ESD had six months to create the new subsidiary and said he hoped the activities "capture your recommendations around oversight so we can do better."

"Peter, I expect you to provide oversight of the oversight," Adams quipped.

Michelle de la Uz



Michelle de la Uz of the Fifth Avenue Committee, responding to a question, said that there was a question about Forest City's pledge to commit 50% of the units, in floor area, to be two- and three-bedroom units suitable for families.

The story of Atlantic Yards offers many lessons about getting the balance right about the roles of government, the private sector," and community leaderships. "The public benefits need to be guaranteed and delivered up front."

"It is government's role to ensure that that happens on the public's behalf, just as it's government's role to ensure proper and timely monitoring" related to the project, she said. "Getting this balance right in a government-sponsored public-private partnership is critical to success. It is only fair."

"Relying on the community and local residents to assume the roles government should play is at the very least inefficient and at its worst a total abdication of responsibility," she said. 'Today we are taking a step in the right direction in getting that balance right for Atlantic Yards."

"I'm extremely proud of the community groups... I'm grateful for the support of our new mayor... I'm heartened by Forest City Ratner's openness to turning the page... and resetting the balance in this ambitious public private partnership, and expect that Greenland Holdings to continue with that as we move forward. I'm thankful for the governor and ESD's leadership and ability to seize the moment to right the wrongs of Atlantic Yards' past.

"Perhaps most importantly, I know, deep in my soul, it will take time and concerted effort on everyone's part and measurable and repeated actions on the part of the developer and the state, such as the ones being taken today by ESD, for the legitimate feelings of righteous indignation that have been built up as a result of this project to be replaced by genuine trust."

Gib Veconi



Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Council (PHNDC), said, "We believe the items you're going to vote on today represent a significant change in the Atlantic Yards project. They represent a significant acceleration of affordable housing benefits and also represent a significant enhancement of the project oversight."

He tossed an olive branch of sorts to his neighbors on Dean Street, who recently withdrew from the PHNDC in protest. "There is no way to overestimate" the impact of arena construction on residents next to the project, he said.

"We continue to be very concerned about the impacts of construction on residents surrounding the project. We believe that, while not the decision-making body that we had called for, the creation of a subsidiary," he said, the new body "does represent a significant improvement in public participation... and project oversight. And it's our hope that you all as directors will work very cooperatively with that organization, will listen to and act on its recommendations."

"And continue to engage the community make sure that the project benefits are delivered and the project impacts are mitigated," he said. "And you will know that you are successful because, at future meetings, Atlantic Yards agenda items are going to go much, much more quickly."

Marjona Jones



Marjona Jones of the Brown Community Development Corporation called the agreement "a huge achievement that means a lot to folks that are getting priced out in our community... We're not anti-development. We just want to make that long-term residents benefit..."

JoAnne Simon



JoAnne Simon, former president of the Boerum Hill Association (and a candidate to succeed Assemblywoman Joan Millman), said, "I want to say one thing: this agreement represents a huge step forward. It does not represent a resolution of the community's concern. It is the first concrete step that shows keeping the public's trust, which has been so sorely lacking in this process."

"The framework.. is that there is a place where we can come together and engage. We have shown,' she said, "that, when the community is at the table with government, we make better decisions... If nothing else, this process will give us a forum to actively engage, and engagement is the answer for this project and so many others."

The ESD vote was fast 

Empire State Development statement: Cuomo announces plan to accelerate Atlantic Yards development

Below, the verbatim statement issued by Empire State Development, notably with quotes from several elected officials:
GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO ACCELERATE THE DEVELOPMENT OF ATLANTIC YARDS PROJECT AND ENSURE TIMELY DELIVERY OF PUBLIC BENEFITS

Plan Includes Commitment to Build 2,250 Affordable Apartments by 2025 instead of 2035

Governor Creates Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, Fourteen Member Board will Monitor and Oversee Atlantic Yards Project and Advise ESD Board

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a comprehensive plan to accelerate the development of Atlantic Yards, including a fast tracked timeline for delivery of affordable housing. The new plan will shorten the completion timeframe to build 2,250 affordable apartments by ten years, from 2035 to 2025. Additionally, the deal will create a board, the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, to provide input on development, housing, and community impact throughout the completion of the project.

The City of New York, through its Housing Development Corporation (HDC), will provide financial support to ensure the delivery of two 100 percent affordable housing buildings, totaling at least 590 units, and construction will begin by December 2014.

"Today we are putting the development of Atlantic Yards on the fast track and expediting the construction of thousands of units of affordable housing in Brooklyn,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York State is delivering a plan that will ensure this vital housing is built quickly and efficiently and that the community is engaged in every step of the project. This agreement is a win for the state and most importantly for Brooklyn residents who will finally begin to see affordable buildings being constructed in their neighborhoods.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “We are determined to jumpstart affordable housing at Atlantic Yards. And we are proud to have worked with Governor Cuomo and the coalition that’s joined together in this community to get this project moving in real time. The agreement means two 100-percent affordable buildings will go in the ground starting next year, with units serving a more diverse range of families. And what’s remarkable is that compared to the project's first building, we’ve secured nearly twice as many affordable units for our City investment.”

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, “This new agreement is a major breakthrough in the Atlantic Yards project. The revised plan ensures that the affordable housing at Atlantic Yards will be completed ten years earlier and the community will have an enhanced role. I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Assembly Member Walter Mosley, MaryAnne Gilmartin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Forest City Ratner Companies, Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, Gib Veconi, Treasurer of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Corporation, and the community groups they worked on behalf of, whose joint efforts contributed to today’s agreement.”

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said, “This new agreement between the MTA and Forest City is better for the Long Island Rail Road, better for the community, and better for everyone who will benefit from the new development coming to what was long an open sore in the heart of Brooklyn. The MTA is glad to be able to help make this improvement happen in a way that benefits everyone involved.”

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries said, “Through the leadership of Governor Cuomo, establishment of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation will strengthen our community’s voice and ensure meaningful participation in this important public-private partnership moving forward.”

Assembly Member Water Mosley said, "The Atlantic Yards project has been a definitive part of our city's development -- transforming Brooklyn's landscape and providing the opportunity to maximize on our complex urban environment. Today, the Project moves in the right direction addressing the great need for affordable housing within a 10 year timeline. It also provides much needed oversight through a subsidiary that includes community involvement. I look forward to continuing along this path of progress and accountability, and ensuring that the needs of our community are prioritized and efficiently addressed."

Council Member Laurie Cumbo said, “Affordable housing is one of Brooklyn’s greatest challenges and this agreement addresses it head on. I thank the Governor, the Mayor and the community advocates for making sure this project was done right. I am grateful for all the community members who fought the good fight to keep Brooklyn, Brooklyn.

Council Member Brad Lander said, “It’s great to see affordable housing, more units for families, and public accountability all meaningfully accelerated at Atlantic Yards. Congratulations to all the partners on achieving this collaborative step forward for a vibrant and inclusive future for Brooklyn.”

MaryAnne Gilmartin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Forest City Ratner Companies said, “FCRC is very pleased to commit to an accelerated schedule for building out Atlantic Yards. We have worked tirelessly to move the project forward. With our new development partner Greenland USA on board we anticipate starting an all affordable residential building by the end of this year and another in June of 2015. We recognize the critical need to bring affordable housing to market and are proud to deliver on this public good with our state, city and community partners. Today is very much a new day for the Atlantic Yards project. We are excited to move forward with a great partner, an aggressive building schedule and stronger community alignment.”

Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee said, “The changes in Brooklyn over the last several years, including those involving Atlantic Yards are staggering and promise considerable affordable housing and economic development opportunities, but also threaten the incredible diversity that defines the borough and the City as a whole. This agreement between the BrooklynSpeaks community groups, local residents, New York State and Forest City is an important step at a crucial phase in Atlantic Yards’ development. It will help ensure that inclusion, transparency and public accountability are part of the project moving forward.”

Gib Veconi, Treasurer of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council said, “The economic realities of solving the city’s affordable housing crisis will increasingly call for public/private partnerships similar to the Atlantic Yards project. Today’s agreement shows that communities can work with the State to hold developers accountable for their commitments to the public. The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors are gratified to have been able to play a role in accelerating the delivery of affordable housing at Atlantic Yards, and will continue to constructively engage the State, the City and the developers as we advocate for the residents of the communities surrounding the project in the months and years ahead.”

Ismene Speliotis, Executive Director, Mutual Housing Association of NY (MHANY) said, “MHANY, New York Communities for Change and The Black Institute have supported this development for over ten years and were integral establishing the commitment for 2,250 affordable housing units. Accountability for the realization of this commitment has been monitored through the Community Benefit Agreement, in which our organizations participate. To finally get to a place where we are moving full steam ahead on this ten year agreement for a wide range of hard working families is welcome news. I applaud Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and ESD for their diligent work to ensure that this happens for everyone here in Brooklyn who long for an affordable place to live and want downtown Brooklyn to be the economically and racially diverse neighborhood that reflects all of Brooklyn.”

Reverend Clinton M Miller, Pastor of Brown Memorial Baptist Church said, “This agreement is a win for everyone involved, with thousands of affordable apartments becoming available sooner for the many families who love Brooklyn and want to continue living here. I am proud to stand with the Governor, Mayor, FCRC and Fifth Ave Committee in support of this enormously important agreement.”

Earlier today the Empire State Development Corporation Board voted to modify the Atlantic Yards Project by:
· Shortening the completion timeframe by ten years so that the project developers will build all affordable housing by 2025, ten years ahead of the previous deadline of 2035. Developers will pay liquidated damages for any remaining affordable housing units that have not been built by the new deadline.
· Ensuring sustained development of affordable housing by requiring that the project developers will provide 35 percent of the completed units at the site as affordable housing units until 1,050 affordable housing units are built. This new deal ensures that the delivery of affordable units does not lag behind the creation of market rate units.
· Committing the project developers to begin construction on two affordable housing buildings by June 2015. The affordable housing lottery will be administered by the City of New York’s Housing Development Corporation. All apartments will be awarded through a lottery process with eligibility determined by income.
· Creating a new subsidiary organization, the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, an entity to provide input on development, housing, and community impact throughout the completion of the project.

ESD has negotiated more stringent requirements with the developers as part of the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments (MEC).

Highlights of these changes include:
· Closer monitoring and oversight of the On-Site Environmental Monitor (“OEM”) staffing, including during off-hour work periods, and a requirement that that OEM be a qualified outside engineering firm or construction management firm consent to by ESD;
· Requirement that the OEM will have substantial construction management experience in New York City and will be located on-site;
· Requirement to include commitments in all site contracts and implementation of remedies for non-compliance, including the right to withhold payment or terminate the contract for non-compliance;
· Stringent new requirements to reduce emissions from diesel-powered construction equipment;
· Strengthening requirement to provide double-glazed windows and ventilation to residents affected by significant construction noise;
· Requirements for Dust Management Plans;
· More stringent noise protocols for construction equipment, including using sound-mitigated back-up alarms;

In addition, The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) this week approved a new plan to speed up construction of building foundations in the MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) rail yard on the site, which is an important step to allow Forest City to begin building a platform above the yard and to allow future phases of the Atlantic Yards development to rise.

Forest City has already committed to building a new permanent rail yard on the site, which will be able to service and store additional trains when the LIRR begins expanded service for its East Side Access project. The permanent yard construction completion deadline will be extended from June 2016 to December 2017 in recognition of the expanded scope of work, as well as the substantial excavation and other preparatory work already performed on the site. The MTA Board’s action Wednesday allows Forest City to build the platform foundations at the same time as the rail yard, which will make construction more efficient, reduce disruptions in the surrounding area, and eliminate conflicts between railroad operations and platform foundation construction.

The Atlantic Yards Project is a 22-acre, $4.9 billion project, that consists of the 18,000-seat Barclays Arena, which has hosted over 300 events since opening in September 2012, including the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, concerts, and other events; the development of a reconfigured and improved LIRR train yard and subway facility improvements; the development of 16 buildings for residential, office and retail uses and potentially a hotel, including up to 6,430 apartments, which will include 4,500 rental units of which 2,250 units (50 percent) will be affordable to low, moderate and middle income households; and the creation of eight acres of publicly accessible open space.