Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from May, 2015

The awards rack up: BRIC, opening Celebrate Brooklyn season, honors Forest City's Berliner

Roots musician John Pinamonti once sang, "It makes me sad/yeah it's such a pity/they're trying to rename Brooklyn/Forest City."

Well, in one extension of that, executives at the developer have been racking up awards.

Not just the controversial Jacqueline Onassis Medal last year to Chairman Bruce Ratner and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin.

Not just honorary degrees (Long Island University, Medgar Evers College) to Ratner. Nor the Brooklyn Museum award to Ratner.

Honoring Forest City's Berliner

Now comes the Celebrate Brooklyn Opening Night Gala & Concert, coming this Wednesday, 6/3/15, featuring a performance by Chaka Khan and honoring Forest City Ratner Chief Operating Officer David Berliner.

(The Gala is sold out; the concert itself is free--donation expected--and open to the public.)

Berliner is in certain ways a worthy honoree--he has brought art to public places, including the Barclays Center. But surely the honor is associated with the recognition--as with other a…

Over 1,400 Barry Manilow tickets at Barclays Center moved at half-price on Groupon (updated)

Updated June 5.

Barclays Center operators/promoters don't make a big deal about discounting, but often they do so to fill the house. So they've sold more than 1,400 half-price tickets to the June 17 Barry Manilow show via Groupon. See this offer.

Groupon typically takes a 50% cut, so the arena is likely taking in about 25% of face value. But that's surely better than giving the tickets away. After all, ticketholders do usually spend money on marked-up food and beverage service.


Note that the Barclays Center did not estimate expected attendance in the event calendar (below) previously released. Though capacity, depending on the stage arrangement, is surely at least 13,000 and likely much higher, they are only expecting 11,000, in the calendar released in June.


CEO/GM letter: Nets "on pace" to open training center during season (nah); team less committed to Williams, Johnson

As noted by NetsDaily, in a letter to season ticket-holders, Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark and team General Manager Billy King refer to an effort to re-sign center Brook Lopez and forward Thaddeus Young, while building "on our emerging young core of players, such as Mason Plumlee, Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown, and Sergey Karasev."

That suggests that the highly-paid Deron Williams and Joe Johnson--some three years ago introduced with enormous fanfare as "Brooklyn's Backcourt"--are on the outs. The Nets have unsuccessfully tried to trade them and their contracts.

"We also want to update you that our world-class HSS Training Center is on pace to open during next season, which will give our players and coaches a state-of-the-art practice facility in Brooklyn," Yormark and King declared.

That's Yormarkian spin.

The new facility in Sunset Park is not "on pace to open during next season," unless they changed the pace. It was announced last…

At Barclays Center, weekend green roof work at 6 am; no disclosure (variance?)

What's this? Well, a reader sends me a photo (right) of workers on the green roof of the Barclays Center at about 6 am.

Below is a photo from the Atlantic Yards webcam, from 6:10 am (note time stamp upper left).

However, as noted in the most recent Construction Alert (bottom), covering this week and next and dated 5/25/15, there's no mention of weekend work on the green roof.

Note that normal construction hours are weekdays after 7 am, until 6 pm. An After Hours Variance is required if there's a desire to perform construction activity before 7 am, after 6 pm, or on the weekend, according to the Department of Buildings.

Maybe they got a variance, maybe not. But even if they did, they didn't disclose it to the public.

That reflects an ongoing frustration regarding the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project: lack of transparency.

The Construction Update does contain some CYA text: Please note: the scope and nature of activities are subject to change based upon field conditi…

Latest notice: weekend work at Atlantic and Sixth, plus closure tonight at Sixth (and obfuscatory language)

Just a day after announcing that West Portal construction for Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park would close Sixth Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street for another week, developer Greenland Forest City Partners and Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project, announced weekend work, along with another closure.

The language seems rather confusing.

The previous notice issued yesterday, at bottom, indicated nightly closures of Sixth "Thursday May 28th to Friday May 29." That word "to" indicates that the closure ends today, while the word "closures" indicates multiple days. Rest assured, as the updated notice directly below indicates, the street will be closed tonight from 10 pm to 6 am.

The new work announced will be 8 am to 4 pm Saturday, May 30 and Sunday, May 31. The notice states that "Sixth Ave will be open during this weekend, however surrounding work zones will be closed."

That's unclear. If there …

Sixth Avenue between Atlantic/Pacific to be closed one more week starting Monday; not disclosed in Construction Update

Sixth Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street will be closed for one week longer than previously announced, starting at 7 am Monday June 1 and lasting through 5 am Monday June 8.
The work involves utility work that's part of the project's West Portal construction, or a direct path from the railyard to the terminal underneath the Atlantic Terminal mall.

That information was disclosed in a Revised Community Notice (bottom) circulated yesterday afternoon by the developer of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, along with Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project.
The extension became clear by comparing it to the previous notice (right). But there was no explanation for the need to shut down the block for another week. 
Presumably the completion of the work was delayed, a not uncommon phenomenon in this project. But if they knew it was delayed, they should have know an extension was needed.
However, the extended work was not disclosed in the …

Do-over: HDC to again approve bonds for B3 tower, this time at $95 million

Pacific Park B3, aka 38 Sixth Avenue, is listed for the upcoming hearing Monday, June 1, of the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC), with $95 million in tax-exempt bonds expected.

However, it was already the subject of the 3/30/15 NYC HDC hearing, with an announced $75 million bond issuance. The fact sheet distributed at the hearing did disclose a $95M bond issuance, as I wrote.

So why this second hearing?

"The new amount... incorporates a cushion, which is common to all our projects, and which was inadvertently omitted in the previous ad for the March 30th hearing," NYC HDC spokeswoman Christina Sanchez responded. "The B3 fact sheet that you received is still valid."

The re-approval is apparently necessary for the building to break ground, as expected, in June.

Note that the $95 million in tax-exempt bonds do not represent a direct subsidy of $95 million, but rather the difference (likely tens of millions) in interest paid compare to taxable b…

"Respected Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner" gets key approval for Nassau Coliseum project

Unsurprisingly, the Hempstead Town Board yesterday approved the redevelopment plan for the Nassau Coliseum led by Bruce Ratner and the Nassau Events Center development group. 
As noted by Newsday, this was the final hurdle for the project, and renovation work should begin shortly after the final event at the Coliseum, an Aug. 4 concert featuring Billy Joel.
Notably, the press release referred to "respected Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner," a strained honorific that vaguely recalls the attempt to attach "Cultural Icon" to Jay-Z. The respect due Ratner surely should be balanced with wariness.
The press release below, verbatim

Murray & Hempstead Town Board Approve Plan For Renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Surrounding Property
Supervisor Kate Murray and the Hempstead Town Board have approved a redevelopment plan for the property surrounding the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, clearing the way for the complete renovation of the aging arena an…

Meeting 5:30 pm invites public input on proposed new app to log comments/complaints on project impacts

Late yesterday came this message from Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park: Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) will host an Atlantic Yards Community App input meeting tomorrow [today, May 27].
5:30 - 6:30 PM
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place, Brooklyn NY 11201
1st Floor Conference Room Please come and share your suggestions on features you would like to see in the new software system. If you have any questions please contact Nicole Jordan at atlanticyards@esd.ny.gov. Thank you for your continued commitment to the overall success of this project. This app--a way to centralize public comments and complaints about the impacts of project construction and operation--could be a good thing, especially if it centralizes all communication, including via 311 and from people who don't have smartphones.

However, if complaints are deemed "closed" when they're not really resolved--as suggested at…

Construction plans for B3 tower constrict Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, narrow access to secondary arena entrance

Among the documents released from the 5/19/15 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC) are plans to constrict the area around the site of the B3 tower at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, for which construction begins next month.

Note that, as of next month, Sixth Avenue north of Dean Street will be constricted considerably, as foundation and excavation work begins.

During construction of the superstructure, beginning in January, Dean Street will be narrowed even more, near Sixth.

Combined with the already constricted section of Dean Street near the B2 modular tower, still under construction, that suggests a rather challenging experience for Barclays Center attendees using the Dean Street entrance, which is the second-largest entrance to the arena.

Protected passageways five feet wide will be maintained so pedestrian traffic can proceed on the north side of Dean Street, but for much of the block those pathways will be taking up the streetbed.

Documents from the recent AY CDC meeting belatedly released

Two sets of documents presented at the meeting last Tuesday (5/19/15) of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation were placed online some three days later--sometime during the day on Friday. (They weren't there when I checked Friday before business hours.)

That's not very timely. The documents weren't made available the next morning, so people at the meeting and reporters like me could try to analyze the meeting we just attended.

Actually, the documents should have been made public before the meeting, and even that would have presented a challenge, given their complexity. After all fact, board materials for meetings of the board of Empire State Development, the AY CDC's parent, are made public (barely) before the meeting.

Atlantic Yards CDC 5/19/15 documents


Atlantic Yards CDC Response Sheet 5/19/15 to 3/23/15 questions

Disruptive late night noise for residents near project last week; what about this week?

For some residents near the Vanderbilt Yard, the last couple of nights have been a welcome respite from overnight construction work over the previous week.

New overnight work is planned at the intersection of Atlantic and Sixth avenues beginning Tuesday night, though it's not clear how loud it's expected to be, given that no extra steps to dampen noise have been announced, as with the work last week.

Such steps only went so far. On Wednesday night, reported one resident of the Newswalk condo between Dean and Pacific streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, "a constant 'beep beep' sound that trucks make backing up" kept her family awake all night--and they don't even live on the side of the building facing the railyard and the Atlantic/Sixth work site.

"When you’re lying awake at night trying to sleep any kind of intermittent, irregular noise like that will make you crazy," the resident reported.

That compounds the impact from the noisy adjace…

On June 3, public hearing over plans to create new school in tower at Dean Street & Sixth Avenue

According to a notice from Brooklyn Community Board 8, the CB will hold a public hearing Wednesday, June 3, at 7 pm, on the New York City School Construction Authority's (SCA) plans to create a primary and intermediate school within District 13.

The location: CNR-Center Light Health Care Center, 727 Classon Avenue (corner of Park Place). Public comments will be accepted until 6/29/15.

The school is to be housed in B15, the a 27-story tower with more than 300 market-rate apartments, part of the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, just east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets. (The previous occupants of the site were removed by eminent domain.)

The school is expected to occupy 100,000 square feet in the building, and will have capacity for 616 seats. Greenland Forest City Partners has agreed to build space for the school, which will be paid for by the SCA.

The documents below include the Notice of Filing, Site Plan, and supplemental materials.

The "Alternate Sites…

From the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Alert: continued night work May 26-June 1 at Atlantic/Sixth

Beyond the intriguing admission about interior work in the B2 modular tower, the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update for the two weeks beginning tomorrow, May 25, contains several descriptions of new work planned, notably continued night work Tuesday May 26 through Monday June 1 at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Sixth Avenue.

Unlike in the previous two-week alert, there is no mention of "directional lighting" or equipment like excavators, cranes, and hoe rams, with the installation of portable fences with acoustic blanket linings to help dampen the sound.

Note that, as of February, Forest City Ratner's CEO said no overnight work was planned. That was not exactly reliable.

(The document was issued Friday. Such an early issuance is unusual, given that the updates usually emerge one or after the date.)

The document, using asterisks and red type, distinguishes new work from ongoing work. Among the new work.

Atlantic Avenue and 6th Avenue Intersection

Dur…

Who knew? At B2 tower, "limited interior work" now planned on modules (presumably delivered complete)

An intriguing admission emerged in the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update for the two weeks beginning May 25, a document issued Friday (bottom).

Regarding the B2 modular tower at Dean Street, and Flatbush Avenue, the document states:
Work related to the erection of modules for floors 11, 12, and 13 is continuing during this reporting period. Limited interior work will begin on modules that have already been installed.  No such "limited interior work" has been ever announced previously; after all, the point of modular construction is to deliver completed modules to the site.

The photo above sent by a reader seems to show that ceilings inside some modules have missing or removed panels.

By contrast, "mechanical, plumbing and electrical mate line work"--connecting the modules so they can be part of the finished building--has been announcedseveral times.

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Brooklyn Construction Alert May 25 2015 - Final

Attention (some) project neighbors: double-paned windows and air conditioners available to dampen noise

Just three days after the question of how much Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park neighbors had been informed of the requirement that they be offered double-paned windows and air conditioners for noise attenuation, new notices were distributed yesterday.

I spotted the notices yesterday posted on Dean Street properties between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, and on Vanderbilt Avenue between Dean and Pacific street.
(A residents adds that they were also placed on Dean Street between Sixth and Carlton Avenue, in part, and on Vanderbilt from Dean to Bergen, in part, and on Carlton Avenue from Dean to Bergen, in part. They were not visible on Carlton Avenue from Pacific to Dean, right opposite the project site.. That's a prime area, so it's possible the neighbors were informed already, or via other means.)

Updating the list

The issue came up May 19 at the meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC)n, where directors were told by Forest City Ratner executive Ja…

Deja vu: another truck violates truck route, drives through residential street

This past Tuesday, 5/19/15, on the same day that an Empire State Development representative reported that the number of complaints regarding Atlantic Yards impactrs had been decreasing, a report on Atlantic Yards Watch documented a truck ignoring the required truck route.

The same thing happened yesterday, again documented on Atlantic Yards Watch.

The truck, which had delivered a module to the B2 modular tower on Dean Street just east of Flatbush Avenue, was supposed to turn left on Sixth Avenue.

Instead, it continued on Dean Street through the residential neighborhood, violating the requirement to use the truck route.



Potential violations

These seem to be clear violations.

According to the New York City Department of Transportation, the failure to use the local truck route leads to a violation, as designated in Section 4-13 of the New York City Tra ffic Rules.Here's advice from a trucker web site:
Very important that for all new truckers and for some occasionals, that you make …

As of February, disruptive night work was not planned, but guess what: schedule creep (and overnight noise)

So there's been noisy, disruptive night work at the Vanderbilt Yard for the past week or so, and it's keeping residents from the Newswalk condo and others nearest the the site from sleeping, I've been told.

The work was disclosed in the most recent Construction Update, and surely proceeds under permit.

But it also proceeds from a typical Forest City Ratner strategy of incomplete candor. Consider my coverage of the 2/16/15 first meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, set up in part to monitor project impacts.

Resident Wayne Bailey of Newswalk, which is adjacent to the Vanderbilt Yard, asked Forest City CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin if there would be nighttime work at the railyard.

"Right now we're not planning on it," Gilmartin said, though she acknowledged "schedule creep" could provoke such work. "If there is a plan, we need to get out early and explain why."

They didn't explain why, actually. The shorthand Construc…

My Newsday op-ed: Nassau must be wary about plans for Coliseum

My op-ed in Friday's Newsday is headlined Nassau must be wary about plans for Coliseum. The message--hardly radical--is that Bruce Ratner's record is worthy of scrutiny.

Consider one episode that didn't make the piece, as I wrote last September, regarding the split between Forest City and former partner Skanska. An affidavit from Skanksa's Richard Kennedy detailed an increasingly contentious relationship regarding blame for the delay in producing modules:
In early 2014, Skanska Building attempted to engage in constructive conversations with Forest City to resolve issues. Forest City's responses ranged from hostile to inattentive and accusatory. For example, at a meeting on January 28, 2014 when William Flemming, the President of Skanska Building, mentioned that design issues existed, Bruce Ratner's response was to use a vulgar street epithet followed by "I don't care if it costs you fifty million to finish the project ... I'll see you at the grand…

Forest City: 550 Vanderbilt condo sales office to launch in June at Barclays Center space (+ Gilmartin says BK's overheated)

The Real Deal reported today, in Forest City’s Gilmartin: Queens and the Bronx are where it’s at:
“Brooklyn might be a little overheated for us,” Gilmartin said Wednesday at the Honest Buildings Real Estate Innovation Summit, held at 7 World Trade Center. She added that real estate prices in Brooklyn have gotten “out of control.”
Forest City is co-developing the Pacific Park residential project in Brooklyn with China’s Greenland Group, and Gilmartin said she still likes Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Gowanus. But she sees greater potential in two other boroughs.
 “I think the future is probably Queens, to be honest,” she said. “If I had enormous amounts of cash to invest, I would pick up properties in Queens and the Bronx.”Launching condo sales
The most interesting nugget came at the end, regarding the 550 Vanderbilt Avenue condo building: sales will launch in June out of a sales office in the Barclays Center, according to Gilmartin. (Studios will start at $550,000.)
In other words, t…

"If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying": Barclays pays $2.4 billion for manipulating foreign exchange market

So the "Barclays Center" has a nice ring to it, right?

Well, the bank behind the name has long been tinged by scandal, including a $450 million fine related to LIBOR (London interbank offered rate) manipulations, and a bank-commissioned review that described an "at all costs" attitude.

Now comes even more damning evidence, thanks to federal and state investigators, describing a $2.4 billion penalty related to a scheme to manipulate spot trading in the foreign exchange (FX) market. And this reminds us of Michael D.D. White's prescient observation, back in August 2012, "I hope future New York Times sports articles start referring regularly to the Ratner/Prokhorov arena as the 'problematically-named Barclays Center' or something else of informative ilk."

The $2.4 billion includes payments of $485 million to the New York State Department of Financial Services, $400 million to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, $710 million to the U.S. De…

At AY CDC meeting, discussion of new app to report community impacts; ESD admits "little" institutional knowledge; open space change coming

In its third meeting, held yesterday, the new Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), set up to help monitor project impacts and benefits, heard extensive discussion of new ways to monitor such impacts.

On the one hand, the proposal for a new app to centralize reports of such impacts was encouraging to some--one project neighbor concerned about regular noisy crowds on residential Pacific Street across from the Barclays Center promised to be a regular user, and another suggested that residents of the new apartments in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park should welcome it..

And more board members were engaged than in previous meetings. (A public meeting on the proposed app will be held on Wednesday, May 27, at 5:50 pm at 55 Hanson Place; a formal notice has not yet been released.)

On the other, it emerged that Empire State Development (ESD) , the state authority that is parent to AY CDC and oversees/shepherds the project, seems to downplay impact reports, designating them as …