This watchdog blog, by journalist Norman Oder, offers analysis, commentary, and reportage about the $4.9 billion project to build the Barclays Center arena and 16 high-rise buildings at a crucial site in Brooklyn. Dubbed Atlantic Yards by developer Forest City Ratner in 2003, it was rebranded Pacific Park in 2014 after the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group bought a 70% stake in 15 towers. New York State still calls it Atlantic Yards. Note: archive at right.
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Atlantic Avenue crane for arena green roof will block traffic for three times longer than initially projected
The Barclays Center green roof is certainly showing progress, as sedum is being laid on the new metal structure (see photo at left from yesterday, via Atlantic Yards web cam).
But the process is in some ways more delayed than ever.
Notably, the crane flanking the arena on Atlantic Avenue, which was only supposed to block traffic on that boulevard for three months--from August through October 2014--instead is expected to last some ten months.
It was installed in late October last year and, we learned last night, is expected to persist through August of this year.
After Forest City Ratner Chief of Staff Ashley Cotton revealed that timetable at a Community Update meeting last night, I asked why the crane will have taken so long.
"I don't know" was the response.
No one from Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project, or the subsidiary Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, aimed to provide some input if not oversight, expressed any concern.
But the Atlantic crane certainly affects traffic, as former ESD CEO Kenneth Adams observed publicly last November, calling traffic near there "a mess."
Flatbush crane delayed too
At the previous Community Update Meeting in February (aka Quality of Life Meeting), Forest City said the Flatbush Avenue crane was expected to be placed "probably towards the end of April."
That would have been five months late. Instead, it's coming this month.
As I've pointed out, the Flatbush crane was supposed to be placed only after the Atlantic Avenue crane was removed.
Note that the Flatbush crane will necessitate the closing of a lane of traffic and likely additional traffic congestion.
Because workers did not take a winter break, as originally planned, Forest City caught up somewhat on the timeline. The installation of sedum began in April as originally planned.
But everything was supposed to be done by July. If the Atlantic Avenue crane remains until August, that's at least a month late.
Benefit to community?
At the meeting, Cotton was asked if the green roof had any benefit to the community.
"It depends on how you define community," Cotton responded. "It's incredibly beautiful, that's number one."
One resident noted that the roof can be seen partially from the street, though clearly construction of the towers around it will block some of the view.
Cotton called it "obviously a great amenity for residents" in the planned three residential towers, who won't have to look at a Barclays logo.
Also, she acknowledged, the addition of steel and sedum should tamp down noise from certain concerts that have leaked bass into the community, "if god forbid we ever have a concert that has that impact again."
The arena has been fined for that and, beyond the green roof, Forest City has taken other internal and operational measures to reduce the likelihood of noise escaping.
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…
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.
That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.
The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."
That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.
Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…
On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.
Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article:
At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…
Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.
And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.
But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…
Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,
And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."
Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.
By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.
Back at planning
Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.