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 Brooklyn 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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Prokhorov takeover of Barclays Center only needs ESDC staff approval; Veconi calls for AY CDC input before decision
It's widely known that Forest City Ratner/Forest City Enterprises has decided, in principle, to sell its 55% share in the Barclays Center operating company and 20% share in the Brooklyn Nets to Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim, currently the owner of the other shares in the arena/team.
That transfer has not officially closed, apparently.
Will the sale need an approval vote by the board of Empire State Development (ESD)?, asked Prospect Heights resident Gib Veconi, at the bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting last night, held at 55 Hanson Place.
After all, ESD, the state authority that oversees/shepherds Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, technically owns the arena, thus allowing issuance of tax-exempt bonds to fund construction, and leases it to the arena operator under a sweet deal, in exchange for PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes) that do not go to the state but are diverted pay off those bonds.
No, said ESD Senior VP Marion Phillips III, it's a staff action.
Veconi, a leader of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, which, as a member of the coalition BrooklynSpeaks, has pushed to improve the project, expressed dismay. He noted that the arena relies on state-approved tax-exempt bonds, and sits on land assembled through threat of eminent domain. (And some was actually transferred via eminent domain.)
Phillips repeated that the transfer fell under the category of issues that only require staff actions.
Note that last year, the transfer of 70% interest in Atlantic Yards, excluding the arena and the B2 tower, to the Shanghai government-owned Greenland Group did not need ESD board consent, but the board did vote approval in order to avoid doubt or ambiguity. This seems a somewhat parallel situation.
Atlantic Yards CDC input requested
"Well, I would like to go on record as suggesting that Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation [AY CDC] board is convened before that decision is made," Veconi responded, citing the advisory body set up last year as part of a settlement aimed to deliver project affordable housing by 2025. (That's ten years faster than the previous extended deadline, though still 16 years after the project's most recent approval.)
"The idea that we're now going to transfer controlling interest in an arena to a foreign owner strikes me as not a good idea unless we have already agreed on a plan to address some of these issues," he said.
I'd add that, putting aside whether the owner is foreign or not, the sale means that the arena operator is no longer an owner of the rest of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, and thus has less incentive to respond to public concerns. In fact, the arena operator and the owners of the rest of the project may now be at odds.
"I don't think a new owner will be motivated to address them more than the current owners," Veconi said. "I would like Atlantic Yards CDC to have an abillity to weigh in on what some of the mitigations might be" before the transaction is approved.
The next AY CDC meeting, however, has not been scheduled.
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…
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 right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.
The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY.
So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.
First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.
According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…
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…
Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said.
When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.) Selling development …
As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.
Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.
To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.”
Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.