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Showing posts from November, 2014

A memento left by construction truck: stains on the Dean Street sidewalk

It looks like the tractor-trailer idling on Friday on the Dean Street sidewalk between Flatbush and Sixth avenues left a memento: some oil or fluid, as shown in the photo below, via Atlantic Yards Watch.

It's a reminder that staging construction on public sidewalks might have some unintended consequences and a spur for city and state overseers to take action.


Governor Cuomo to those backing political opponents: " I WILL GO AFTER YOU!”

Zack Fink has an astonishing article in City & State, PARTNERS IN POWER: THE UNLIKELY ALLIANCE OF ANDREW CUOMO AND CHRIS CHRISTIE, which includes this passage:
In September 2013, more than a year before Cuomo was up for reelection, Tishman Speyer President and Co-CEO Rob Speyer summoned a select group to discuss the 2014 election: State Republican Chairman Ed Cox, Republican Senate Conference Leader Dean Skelos, then–state GOP Executive Director Michael Lawler and Republican Senate Counsel Robert Mujica.
Speyer began the meeting by telling the attendees that he had “been friends with Andrew Cuomo for 20 years,” according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, so as not to upset any of the parties involved. The governor had asked him to call this meeting, Speyer explained, because like them, Cuomo wanted to keep the State Senate in Republican hands. If the party ran a candidate who could potentially beat Cuomo in 2014, however, the governor would spend $40 million to de…

As steel deliveries for arena green roof continue, an idling tractor-trailer on the sidewalk; 40 deliveries over five months?

The sidewalk on Dean Street between Flatbush and Sixth avenues has been taken over periodically for deliveries of steel for the Barclays Center's new green roof.

That was predicted in the most recent Construction Alert.

However, despite a promise that protocols for the trucks were supposed to include "vehicle idling restrictions," one tractor-trailer idled yesterday morning for more than 45 minutes, according to a report and video posted on Atlantic Yards Watch.

That's right across the street from several residences.

I queried Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, about whether this apparently violation provoked a response or sanction, but didn't get a response.



Why no flagmen?

Also, despite a promise in the Construction Alert about flagmen promised to "be present to direct pedestrians away from the work area," none were present at the intersection of Sixth and Dean, where the video wa…

Gilmartin: Atlantic Terminal mall was a huge risk (?), but mitigated by low land cost. Now, a retail mismatch?

National Real Estate Investor on 11/26/14 published Driving Up Value in Urban Retail Settings Still a Tough Development Proposition, quoting, among others, Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin:
Gilmartin also talked of the experience of building the Atlantic Terminal mall a decade ago, at a time when doing anything in Brooklyn was considered a huge risk. For Forest City, the risk was mitigated by the fact that it had secured the land at a low cost and so had a lot of potential upside. In practice, the development has been massively successful by bringing retail to an underserved market. The Target at the property, for example, is now the best-performing location for the department store chain.
At the time, however, Forest City had to convince tenants to lease space at the Atlantic Terminal mall, often on very favorable terms. As a result, today Forest City would like to redevelop the original property and bring it in line with the quality of the more recent Atlantic Yards project…

Greatest scam of all time? Privatization "auctions" by Russian gangster-pols, according to Taibbi

In September, The Atlantic magazine asked The Big Question, What is the greatest scam of all time?

One answer came from journalist Matt Taibbi, then of First Look Media (which he has since left):
Dreamed up in the ’90s by Russian gangster-pols and their Western advisers, the privatization “auctions” of the loans-for-shares scheme were actually crudely rigged pantomimes in which cronies of Boris Yeltsin were handed some of the world’s largest energy companies—like Yukos and Sibneft—for pennies on the dollar, instantly creating an oligarch class. That, of course, would include Brooklyn Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who Taibbi in 2010 called "a real gangster."

The recalls a line (which I highlighted below) from Connie Bruck's 1/20/14 New Yorker profile of Leonard Blavatnik, The Billionaire’€™s Playlist: How an oligarch got into the American music business:
Blavatnik enjoys acclaim for his philanthropy, and an increasingly high social profile. Last April, he had din…

Jersey barriers for Block 1129 construction narrow streets, snag traffic; were locals prepared for loss of parking?

Yesterday, workers put down jersey barriers in anticipation of a major construction effort--16-foot high fences to protect the construction site for two towers on the southeast block of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site, a block formerly used for surface parking.

(The block is bounded by Carlton Avenue, Dean Street, and Vanderbilt Avenue, with Pacific Street already turned into a private street, used for construction staging.)

We were told that the perimeter must be extended to allow for bracing of the unusually high fences--themselves needed to protect neighbors from noise--but it's hardly clear to me why, for example, such a huge piece of Carlton Avenue (first photo) was needed.

Indeed, the slide explaining the plan (above right) did not exactly explain how far the "Work Zone" would extend west of the sidewalk.
When I walked by last evening to shoot the first photos, a disgusted resident, not knowing who I was, commented spontaneously, "This is fascism."

Conventional wisdom: Philly > Brooklyn for DNC because of swing state, security perimeter around Barclays Center (would businesses close?)

Well, a day after the press conference/pep rally at City Hall for the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center, the DC-based Politico's Playbook yesterday offered a prediction, and a scoop:

--CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: We’re goin’ to Philly! Pennsylvania’s a swing state. GOP convention is in Cleveland, making it less likely the DNC will choose Ohio. Brooklyn’s Barclays Center has issues (serious, but not unresolvable) with the security perimeter, which could close a bunch of small businesses for weeks. Well, that didn't come up publicly, did it?

The Daily News reported last night, Bill de Blasio does not rule out possible local business closings if city hosts DNC in 2016:

Mayor de Blasio on Tuesday did not rule out the possibility that businesses adjacent to the Barclays Center might have to temporarily close if the city hosts the 2016 Democratic national convention in Brooklyn.
The shutdowns might be necessary to create a secure perimeter around the a…

Groundbreaking for 535 Carlton scheduled for December 15, likely before new AY CDC meets

From Curbed:
A December 15 groundbreaking date has been set for the next Pacific Park (nee Atlantic Yards) tower, 535 Carlton Avenue [at Dean Street]. The entity developing the COOKFOX-designed building is now calling itself Greenland Forest City Partners, as it's a partnership between Forest City and the Chinese investment group that bailed them out.  Symbolism note: the groundbreaking--for a 100% "affordable" building--will likely occur before the first meeting of the new Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, which, we learned last week, is supposed to debut the week of December 15. I believe the meeting will be in the evening to allow for public attendance.

(In September, a state official said the goal was no later than December 15. Does that mean the meeting will be precisely that day?)

A groundbreaking does not mean actual construction, so the new AY CDC should be up and running before construction begins in earnest. Then again, disruptive construction a…

At press conference touting DNC bid, happy talk about Brooklyn and Barclays Center (and nothing about Russian/Chinese ownership)

It was a time for happy talk about Brooklyn, the Barclays Center, and the potential for a 2016 Democratic National Convention, with no recognition (at least in the public presentation/pep rally, below) that the last major special event--the far smaller MTV Video Music Awards--played havoc with the arena's closest neighbors.

On the afternoon a group of Brooklynites, including some living/working near the Barclays Center, were invited to City Hall for a meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio's office about the 2016 convention, New York/Brooklyn was named one of the three finalists, along with Philadelphia and Columbus.

That meant the meeting became a photo op for the press.

From a macro perspective, the question for the Democratic National Committee is whether the megaphone of an event in the nation's media capital, coupled with a capacity for major fundraising, trump the perceived need to win a swing state and/or shuttle conventioneers from hotels to the venue.

Joining de Blasio …

From the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Alert: overnight steel deliveries for arena green roof now starting this week

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (below), dated (and distributed) 11/24/14 and covering this week and next week, large steel truss deliveries for the Barclays Center's green roof are now supposed to start this week, during overnight hours.

The previous alert said the deliveries were supposed to begin last week. Only after inquiries did I learn that there will be 40 total deliveries, but the state was unable to estimate how many nights that would encompass.

Also coming is a 16-foot construction fence around the southeast block of the project site, Block 1129, with the parking lot operation slated to close on or about 11/29/14. As far as I can tell, the recent environmental review did not indicate the full loss of parking.

Below, verbatim excerpts from the document:
Arena Green Roof
• Steel installation has commenced, with large steel truss deliveries expected to commence during the week of November 24th. Deliveries are being made to both the B3 …

Cash receipts for Barclays Center show $11 million drop in ticket revenues between Q3 of 2013 and Q3 of 2014

It's too soon to declare a definitive trend, but ticket revenues at the Barclays Center for the third quarter of 2014 were way down compared to the third quarter of 2013.

Consider that, according to documents made available to bondholders, for the third quarter completed at the end of September, the arena had $17.7 million in suite and sponsor installments and $14.5 million in ticket sales. The total: $32.15 million.

By contrast, for the third quarter of 2013, as I wrote last November, the Barclays Center reaped a similar $17.9 million in suite and sponsor installments but a more robust $25.4 million in ticket sales. The total: $43.3 million.

That's about an $11 million decline in ticket revenue.  Update: this does not include the Brooklyn Nets, since ticket revenues for Nets games go to the team. (See p. 70 of the Official Statement for the bond issuance.)

Net operating income does not drop commensurately, because the arena has also cut costs since its first year of opening.…

Inside/out, two different views of belatedly open Sugar Factory at Barclays Center (plus departure of Let's Yo!, Kaz An Nou, Marco's)

After more than two years of delay, the Sugar Factory candy store finally opened Saturday, 11/15/14, at the eastern end of the arena.

The interior looks like a fine place to buy/sell candy. Surely, the entrance from the interior of the Barclays Center is festive.
From the exterior, however, it's still dead at the end of the arena where Sixth Avenue meets Pacific Street, as the photo below taken 11/17/14 indicates.

At one point, presumably, they expected to have a retail entrance for people walking by. That, at least for now, is not tenable, since there's little foot traffic and a lot of construction work nearby. Perhaps that will change when towers are built adjacent to the arena.


Let's Yo! gone

Also note--and I missed it for a while--that Let's Yo!, a retail outlet on the Flatbush Avenue side of the arena, closed last summer, after barely six months of existence.

Maybe frozen yogurt is way overhyped, maybe the lease terms were quite demanding, maybe both.

But it's …

From Gehry exhibition in Paris: what Atlantic Yards might have been (and with tower, not plaza)

A reader visiting Paris sent me the photo below, a model of Atlantic Yards that's part of the Frank Gehry retrospective at the Centre Pompidou. (It's from the 2008 iteration of the arena block, though, interestingly enough, the blue titanium wrapping the arena is less wavy and thus far less flamboyant than in the renderings.)

It's astounding, of course, to recognize the difference between the original (and approved) project plans, with an enormous tower at the tip of the project site, and the version as currently built, with a plaza providing the "high-low" city.




According to a listing, from the website of the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, ParisInfo:
Frank Gehry, the exhibition runs from 10/8/14 to 1/5/15:
Architectural genius.This exhibition is an exceptional event, as this is the first time the Pompidou Centre has organised a retrospective of the work of Frank Gehry, one of the great figures of contemporary architecture. His visual and architectural la…

State official Kenneth Adams meets reality: traffic on Atlantic around Barclays Center crane "a mess"

Kenneth Adams, the Brooklynite who heads Empire State Development (ESD), the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, makes a point of empathizing (and usually no more) with locals concerns about project impacts, and yesterday offered his personal impressions of the traffic problems outside the Barclays Center.

"I wasn't able to make the [Atlantic Yards Quality of Life] meeting last night," Adams commented yesterday at the end of an ESD board meeting, where the board--at that point, only he was present--got an update on the project and heard from some nearby residents. (I'll have a separate post on that.)

"I had a question for Jane [Marshall]," Adams said, referencing a Forest City executive who was at the Quality of Life meeting but not the ESD board meeting. He was setting up a discussion of the giant crane on Atlantic Avenue set up to help install the planned green roof, aimed at tamping down noise escaping from the arena and imp…

At the Quality of Life meeting: dismay over parking, new buildings well-received, update on new Atlantic Yards CDC

Last night's Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting, held at Brooklyn Hospital near Downtown Brooklyn, contained an update on several issues, including modular construction, but the biggest issues for the audience were the wholesale removal of parking in and around the southeast block of the site, which triggered dismay, as well as an architect's presentation regarding two new towers, which was well-received.

Dismay over parking for residents
In order to attenuate noise from construction, Empire State Development has required a 16-foot fence--twice the height as typical--around the southeast block, Block 1129, bounded by Dean Street, Carlton Avenue, and Vanderbilt Avenue.
The fence and its support not only removes 85-100 parking spaces, it removes the on-site surface parking used by some arenagoers. In other words, the tight fit for the project--which requires the larger construction fence--means that parking gets sacrificed.
"This is obviously going to eliminate a lot of …

Forest City re stalled B2 tower: "Any alignment issues that may exist… is an easy fix"

At last night's Atlantic Yards Quality of Life meeting, held at Brooklyn Hospital near Downtown Brooklyn, Forest City Ratner noted they have now taken control of the modular factory from former partner Skanska, but could not predict when the next module would be lifted to re-start construction at the stalled B2 tower.

“We’ve stated again and again, the process was not the problem, our partner was,” Forest City Ratner Chief of Staff Ashley Cotton said. That, of course, remains the subject of litigation, as the two firms have filed dueling lawsuits regarding up to $50 million in cost overruns.

“Am I right that some of the mods are out of alignment,” asked resident Robert Puca, referencing what seems to be visible to passers-by.

“So I know that a lot of people have asked this question, it’s been written about,” Cotton responded.

"Any alignment issues that may exist… is an easy fix," she said. "I know what you mean, that’s why I don’t want to say you’re imagining it, but I…

DNC host committee includes Gilmartin, Ratner

From Capital Real Estate newsletter (emphases added), the unsurprising news that the two top Forest City Ratner executives, whose Barclays Center would host the 2016 Democratic National Convention, are on the host committee: D.N.C. BID — "De Blasio unveils 101-member D.N.C. host committee," by Capital's Sally Goldenberg: “Mayor Bill de Blasio has named banking and business executives as well as real estate bigwigs and labor leaders to the host committee he's assembled as part of the city's effort to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention....
Here are some of the people he named to the committee: Jeff T. Blau, The Related Companies; Richard Born, BD Hotels; Ric Clark, Brookfield Office Properties; Douglas Durst, The Durst Organization; Helena Durst, The Durst Organization; MaryAnne Gilmartin, Forest City Ratner Companies; Barry M. Gosin, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank; Jonathan Gray, Blackstone; Jeffrey R. Gural, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank; Marc Holliday, SL Gre…

Job Opening: Director, Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation

Just posted yesterday by Empire State Development is a job opening for a new position: Director, Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation. The pay is from $70,000 to $75,000 annually--approximately the previous salary for the manager of community government relations post, and below the salary for the in-house Project Director.
Applications are due by 12/03/14, and the new AY CDC is supposed to be up and running by the third week of December. That's a short window for hiring--unless they already have an in-house or governmental candidate already in mind.

The job listing suggests a significant role for the AY CDC President (or Chair), who will be appointed by the governor and, I suspect, will be a governmental employee.

It also suggests a potential tension between serving the interests of the governor and ESD as well as the oversight and monitoring of the project. See "Provide strategic support, advice and positioning for the AYCDC President and related ESD Staff"…

Quality of Life meeting tonight: agenda, slides, and some potential issues (arena "mob," parking removal, green roof timing)

Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, yesterday circulated the agenda for the Quality of Life Meeting tonight at 6 pm at Brooklyn Hospital Auditorium, 3rd Floor, 121 Dekalb Avenue.
1. NYPD Community Update - Capt. DiGiacomo (78th PCT)
2. Department of Transportation (DOT) – Chris Hrones
3. Empire State Development (ESDC) – Samuel Filler
a. Relocation Update
b. Atlantic Yards Community Development Corp. (AYCDC) 4. Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC) – Ashley Cotton
a. Design Presentation 535 Carlton & 550 Vanderbilt by CookFox
b. On-site Environmental Monitor (OEM)
c. Construction Update
--i. Barclays
--ii. Demolition & LIRR
--iii. 461 Dean Street (B2)
d. Arena Operations
e. Update Maintenance and Protection of Traffic (MPT) Block 1129 5. Q & A Among the issues that may come up:

the architects' will present the designs (misleading in the renderings)  for the two upcoming towers, on Dean Street at Carlton Avenue and at Vande…