Wednesday, February 18, 2015

FCR's Gilmartin: "Atlantic Yards was always a working title" (+ "35 lawsuits" canard)

From an interview today in the Commercial Observer, Forest Ranger: MaryAnne Gilmartin on Her 20-Year Career at Forest City Ratner, with emphases added by me:
CO: Do you think the Barclays Center has realized its potential?
MAG: I do. For us, Barclays was always the cornerstone of something much bigger, which is Atlantic Yards, now Pacific Park. We wanted to launch something more ambitious than just an arena. But as a freestanding single asset, it has certainly exceeded expectations. It’s been the number one performing arena in the country and number two in the world, just in terms of ticket sales. And it’s an architectural gem … Of course, it’s not yet stabilized financially. If you were to look at the numbers and research it, you would learn it’s still a work in progress. It takes awhile to get an asset like that to its stabilized, operating income.
Indeed, it's well behind the original plan for stabilization, as noted in the Wall Street Journal.

Also, while it's correct to say the Barclays Center was the top arena in the country, that applies to 2013, during which Madison Square Garden was under renovation. In 2014, MSG reclaimed its place.

The name change, and the "35 lawsuits"
CO: Why was the rebranding of Atlantic Yards to Pacific Park necessary?

MAG: Atlantic Yards was always a working title. But it went on for a decade because it had the longest beginning of any project in New York’s history. I don’t think anyone wants to live on a railyard [but] as we built the arena we thought about people making this place their home, it seemed that Atlantic Yards wasn’t the best name for it.
It also had a 10-year history that was tired and in need of refreshing. We had a new partner. We had equity lined up to build expeditiously. And so with 35 lawsuits, the recession and other challenges that the project went through, an early renaming would have just gotten stale and seemed like a false start. So we were deliberate about making sure when it was renamed. This is marketing 101.
I doubt it was "always a working title," since the project was approved in 2006 and 2009, and was "begun"--if you count the arena groundbreaking--in March 2010, six years and four months after it was announced.

I do agree that the history was "in need of refreshing," given the goal to push the controversy away.

There weren't 35 lawsuits. Maybe 35 legal decisions. The press shouldn't simply repeat it without confirmation. I've publicly challenged Forest City on providing backup.

Sheldon Silver and FCR's integrity
CO: Sheldon Silver helped push through the Atlantic Yards proposal in 2006 and helped obtain tax breaks for the project. How do you think his indictment will impact your work at Forest City Ratner?

MAG: I don’t think [his absence] will at all. I don’t see any relationship to [our work]. We also built 8 Spruce Street, which is in Shelly’s district. There is a school in the base [of the building]. At that particular project, which identified a need for a school, [Mr. Silver] was tirelessly committed to getting the school for the people in the area. I worked with his office. His role on Atlantic Yards was part of the PACB [Public Authorities Control Board], which was a requirement of the project, that it get that approval. I wasn’t personally running the project at the time, but I stand by the integrity of our company.
If there's no relationship, then why did the Times report, last March, regarding the son of Silver's Chief of Staff:
"The Rapfogels’ eldest son, Michael, finished law school in 2005 and soon went to work for Mr. Ratner. The job was seen internally as a way to please Mr. Silver, say people familiar with the son’s work; Mr. Ratner’s company rejects the notion.
As for Forest City's integrity, well, do see my summation of The Culture of Cheating and the Yonkers trial.

What's missing?

It's interesting that there were no questions about partnering as subordinate to new 70% project owner, the Shanghai-government owned Greenland Group, or the dubious promotion in China of EB-5 investments in the project.

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