Skip to main content

So, Forest City's a hospitable place for women to work; the backstory is more complicated

So Bruce Ratner, and successor MaryAnne Gilmartin, have made Forest City Ratner a notably hospitable place for women to work in the male-dominated world of real estate, reports Capital New York, in The women of Forest City.

From the article:
That Forest City could be instructive in this way will perhaps come as a surprise to the company’s many detractors in New York City. The company’s decade-long effort to redevelop Atlantic Yards garnered fierce resistance from community groups. The project was fraught by local opposition and complaints of political favoritism (though the progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio, a close ally to Ratner, was a staunch supporter of the project when he was the local councilman). The project, now known as Pacific Park, even has an entire blog focused on digging up dirt about the development.
Forest City’s effort to build the city’s tallest modular building, known as B2, broke down last year when the company’s development partner, construction giant Skanska USA, shut down their Brooklyn Navy Yard factory. Skanska said Forest City provided a defective product. Forest City said Skanska’s management was incompetent. It was such a bitter dispute that both sides sued each other and ended up going their separate ways.
In one email that came out of the suits, Skanska executive vice president Mike McNally told his colleagues that some people at Forest City had been openly hostile toward him in a phone call. The call started with Gilmartin, he said, but she passed the phone off to another executive. Forest City leaders said that if Skanska did not come to a meeting willing to agree to their plan, it was best if they didn’t come at all, McNally claimed. “After about 10 minutes, I mentioned that we would also like to discuss the financial impact at the meeting and they went crazy,” he wrote. “They were threatening and insulting.”
Whoever’s account of that call is true, one thing is clear: it’s a tough industry, and clearly one in which Gilmartin and her crew have been able to thrive.
My comment (pending as of this moment)

As the writer of the "entire blog focused on digging up dirt" about Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park--I'd call it "watchdog journalism" that chronicles the project with an appropriately skeptical perspective--I feel compelled to point out that Bruce Ratner's record employing women, however unusual/admirable in the real estate industry, is not without significant blemish.

As the New York Post reported in 2011, top executive Jim Stuckey was ousted by Ratner in 2007 "after a series of complaints had been made against him by female employees... Ratner, sources told The Post, resisted the idea of getting rid of Stuckey until some of his top lieutenants threatened to quit after an ugly incident at a 2006 Christmas party," in which Stuckey had women employees sit on his lap.

Regarding the email from Skanska's Mike McNally--which "came out of the suits" because I found it in a court file--note that Gilmartin did not pass the phone *off* to fellow executive Bob Sanna but had him join her on the call. McNally reported to colleagues that "they were threatening and insulting."

Capital's article goes on to say, "Whoever’s account of that call is true..." But it's unclear whether Gilmartin denies that or has a different account.

I'm not sure the lesson is simply that real estate development is a "tough industry." It may also be that Forest City is a notably aggressive company. ""We are in some ways government’s worst nightmare, because we push," Gilmartin said at one panel, "but without it, you do not get things done."

Or, as surfaced in an email from an architect in another lawsuit, "I had an unpleasant conversation with MaryAnne," he wrote. "I was told they know the same people I know and they’ll make sure to fuck me whenever possible."

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…