Skip to main content

School at B15 site approved by City Council (no, not part of CBA); unclear when decision made re K-8 vs. middle-school


In a mostly routine vote, the New York City Council yesterday approved siting for a 616-seat school in the tower planned for the B15 site of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets.

There was no mention of the concerted push to make the school a middle-school rather than, as tentatively planned, a school for both elementary and middle-school students. Nor was there mention of the significant concern expressed about the location across the street from the Barclays Center and near police and fire stations.

At the Council's Stated Meeting, this item was packaged in a vote on numerous measures, and passed with 44 yes votes and one abstention.

The abstainer was Brooklyn Council Member Inez Barron, who succeeded her husband Charles Barron as the resident gadfly. According to the video of the meeting (linked here), beginning at about 38:50, Barron explained her vote, stating, "It's located in Atlantic Yards, that developer has a history, has demonstrated that promises have not been met. There's no oversight by the SCA [School Construction Authority]."

That's comment about oversight wasn't quite true. Developer Greenland Forest City Partners, the joint venture including Forest City Ratner (the developer Barron referenced), will build the core and shell of the 100,000 square-foot school. The SCA can then fit out the building itself, or contract with the developer, and presumably have oversight. But Barron may have been referring to the fact that the SCA cannot guarantee the timetable of the building.

Cumbo's response

From the CBA
A bit later, Council Member Laurie Cumbo, in whose district the school will be (and who supports a middle-school), diplomatically thanked Barron for bringing up her concerns, saying the vote was an opportunity to get a badly needed school within the district.

"This came as part of the Community Benefits Agreement [CBA]," Cumbo said, incorrectly, adding, "I will certainly take Council Member Barron's concerns into consideration... to make sure that all children, and the diversity of this district, is represented." 

Actually, the school is a state-required mitigation (see the Second Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, p. 2) for the increase in population caused by the project, and the square footage is extra, on top of what the developer is allowed.

By contrast, the CBA, signed by Forest City Ratner with selected community partners, made extravagant but vague promises/projections, not fulfilled, for a School for Construction Management and Trades, three charter schools (focusing on construction, sports, and music/film), and a "new vision school" focusing on information technology.

A public discussion: what gets built

At the Community Update meeting Wednesday night regarding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park issues, Gib Veconi, a prominent middle-school advocate, asked at what point was the decision made to build the school as K-8 or a middle school.
"The way I've had it explained is they do build it as K-8," stated Forest City's Ashley Cotton.

The Department of Education, Veconi said, will try to delay its decision, "but they do build dedicated middle-schools," with larger gyms and bathrooms. "At what point do your plans for that space become final?" (Actually, Community Board 2 has suggested that the decision be delayed until the need is assessed closer to opening.)

"The bathrooms are bathrooms," with pipes and water connections, responded Greenland's Scott Solish. "What toilets can be installed I think can be done relatively late."

"We don't pick the toilets," Cotton continued. "We do core and shell." If the SCA wants the developer to build out the school, "we'd create a business deal." That's what happened at 8 Spruce Street, the Frank Gehry-designed tower in Lower Manhattan built by Forest City.

Location issues

Dean Street resident Peter Krashes said his block association, "and this captures the consensus near project site... [is that] the B15 location may be the worst location for a school."

Beyond the potential hazards nearby, Krashes suggested the building would arrive too late to mitigate the impact of the first towers. According to his research, Krashes said, there are 2,310 existing elementary school seats, with 2,236 filled right now. (Veconi, behind him, muttered that the numbers were wrong.)

"The mitigation the state requires suggests that the timing would have been most apt in 550 Vanderbilt," Krashes said, referring to the condo building at the southeast corner of the site... B15 is five-six buildings down the pike... B15 is the only building without [ground-level] open space... and people know what Sixth Ave is like... from a location point of view, whether it's timing, or quality of classrooms and access to school... you could do better."

Flatbush Avenue resident Regina Cahill, president of the North Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District, agreed that the site was "not the best" and said the building should be designed "so there is a plaza space to spill out to.. if it becomes a middle school... there needs to be enough space exterior to the building to allow for dismissal."

Cahill added that teachers cannot afford to live nearby, and may need free parking.

Krashes raised the question of the lack of ground-level open space on recess, suggesting students would not easily get to the top of a 27-story building.

"People are thinking about all these issues," responded Forest City executive Jane Marshall..

Cotton said the 8 Spruce building has a terrace on the fifth or sixth floor. "These are the kind of designs SCA has become quite pro at."

"There needs to be some kind of vision to the site," Cahill responded.

"We've hired [architect] Jonathan Marvel, he's doing six projects in Brooklyn," Cotton responded.

"Well, they [the SCA representative] were shocked when we described the intersection," Cahill countered.

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…