Monday, November 30, 2015

Atlantic Yards, Pacific Park, and the Culture of Cheating


I offer a framework to analyze and evaluate Atlantic Yards (in August 2014 rebranded as Pacific Park Brooklyn) and the Barclays Center: Atlantic Yards, Pacific Park, and the Culture of Cheating.




Paterson promised New York State would be "scrupulous in our monitoring," but neighbors document clogged street, demolition dust

Remember then-Gov. David Paterson at the March 2010 groundbreaking for the Barclays Center?

"To those who have supported the project and to those who opposed the project," he declared, "I guarantee that we will be scrupulous in our monitoring of the contract that Forest City Ratner signed with the state to make sure that everything we were promised, we receive."

There are several ways to look at that statement, which seems tilted to monitoring the project's benefits, though of course Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project, has not pointed out the less-affordable nature of the subsidized housing. Nor did it proactively make public the mold and water-infiltration problems with the B2 modular tower.

As to the regular complaints and concerns regarding construction impacts, state officials like to say incidents are "closed," though that doesn't necessarily mean much.

What might the state report to the public about two incidents captured by resident monitors?

A truck clogs Sixth Avenue

 The video below, as linked on Atlantic Yards Watch by Peter Krashes, shows a very large truck essentially closing Sixth Avenue near Dean Street for more than two minutes on Saturday, 11/28/15.



The construction workers seem wary of scrutiny. Commented Krashes:
I'm curious what specific part of the environmental monitoring team was out today? 
While I videotaped this incident, I was videotaped myself by two or three of the construction workers. Note the truck driver waving my camera away. My focus is a circumstance I think merits being captured because it is unfolding in a shared public space which has been compromised by the project temporarily and perhaps permanently.
A plume of dust

The video below, taped by resident Wayne Bailey on Friday, 11/27/15, shows the demolition of 491 Dean Street, the last of three 19th century row houses on Dean demolished for 664 Pacific Street, a 27-story luxury rental tower with space for a public school.

Note the worker using a hose to tamp down the dust, as is required by the Second Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments signed by the developer (see. p. 24). But also note that, after about 1:50, that doesn't seem to be working too well, as the dust starts escaping from the west end of the structure, closer to Dean Street.




Who official was monitoring this? What are the consequences?

Perhaps the next Community Update meeting, on Dec. 9, should not merely be a "developer meeting," in which Greenland Forest City Partners selectively discloses its plans.

Can't Empire State Development report more concretely on monitoring and sanctions (beyond, for example, toothless reports on the arena operator's regret that a street was blocked)?

Gargano, Mastroianni, and a table at Rao's; don't forget the EB-5 connection

Let's decode this story from yesterday's New York Post Page 6 gossip site, Financier fights back against claims of a Rao’s regular:
Florida financier Julian Rubinstein is fighting back after Rao’s regular Charles Gargano told us Rubinstein’s story that he bought Gargano’s Rao’s table for charity — then was stiffed — is full of baloney.
....
The red-sauce row thickened when Rubinstein shot back: “I researched my e-mails and found that Nick Mastroianni III — who was running for and won [Leukemia & Lymphoma Society] man of the year — got Gargano to donate the table.” Mastroianni III’s dad, Nicholas Mastroianni II, is president of US Immigration Fund, where Gargano’s executive director. “Nick provided all of Gargano’s contact info — I certainly didn’t get Gargano’s cell number from Google,” Rubinstein said.
Mastroianni III told Page 6 that Gargano did donate his Rao’s table to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, but had already promised the table to another cancer organization.

A perfect fit

Now Rao's, an impossible-to-get-into East Harlem Italian restaurant known for both its mob and law enforcement clientele, sounds like a perfect place for Gargano, former Chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, who liked to be called "Ambassador" long after he left his posting to Trinidad and Tobago.

Gargano, as I reported, has a post-government career promoting EB-5 investments, in which immigrant investors get green cards for delivering low-interest loans of $500,000--that purportedly create 10 jobs each--to real estate and other projects. Chinese investors, rich but naive, feel more confident when "government"--or in this case, former government officials--are involved.

And the U.S. Immigration Fund, run by the Mastroianni family, is responsible for both the Atlantic Yards II and Atlantic Yards III projects. Fortune magazine did an epic takedown of the sketchy history of Nicholas Mastroianni II.

Promoters of EB-5, nervous about Congressional reauthorization of key program elements, like the hashtag, #EB5isWorking. Given the sketchy nature of the program, and the clubby participants, the hashtag #EB5IsARacket strikes me as more apt.

The Rao's episode, of course, indicates no specific wrongdoing. But it does indicate the clubbiness.

As for Nick Mastroianni III becoming Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man of the Year, well, that was for the Palm Beach chapter, as far as I can tell; there are a lot of local winners. Among his supporters were various people/firms involved in real estate; thus charity is used to put a halo over people whose business activities may raise doubts.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Developer buys auto-related lots catercorner to NE edge of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, plans apartments on Atlantic

From the New York Post 11/24/15
Developer Jeffrey Gershon of Hope Street Capital has locked up the entire southern blockfront of Atlantic Avenue, between Vanderbilt and Clinton, with 99-year leases for two sprawling parcels at 529 Vanderbilt and 809 Atlantic. It is expected to take on a 550 Clinton address.
The site — home to ramshackle car washes and repair joints — is opposite the McDonald’s and the Pacific Park project. Up the block, a 2012-era rental at 525 Clinton has shown the area is ripe for modern apartments.
Actually, this is the north side of Atlantic Avenue, at Vanderbilt Avenue, opposite McDonald's and catercorner to the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site. It's currently occupied by Atlantic Hand Wash at the corner and other auto uses. There's a lot of traffic, of course, but the neighborhood is changing.

The Pacific Park building at that corner, B10, is tentatively scheduled to open in 2019, the first tower to be built on a deck over the Vanderbilt Yard.

Gershon is bookending the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site, more or less. As reported last April by the Real Deal, Gershon  and partner AEW Capital bought a Walgreen's site on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, at 520-528 Atlantic Avenue (at Third Avenue), and is planning condos there.

"Beware of China's Safety Record," in Brooklyn?

Beware of China's Safety Record, opined Chinese novelist Murong Xuecun in the 11/26/15 New York Times, regarding accidents in Chinese industrial buildings, construction sites, and mega-engineering projects, including nuclear power projects.

"There’s no reason to expect the safety standards and the quality of building to be higher in China-run projects abroad," he wrote, citing the management role of "Chinese state-owned companies," work done by "imported, low-paid Chinese laborers," with management by "mainly Chinese government appointees."

He citesdincidents in Vietnam and Ecuador, as well as information control from Chinese authorities.

And in Brooklyn

Should that impact how we think about Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park?

After all, it's a project of the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners, with Greenland Holdings, controlled by the government of Shanghai, owning 70% of the project going forward, excluding the Barclays Center arena and the B2 modular tower, aka 461 Dean Street.

Forest City Ratner, the minority partner, manages site activities, and all the workers are union workers. (That, however, didn't protect an unfortunate ironworker killed in a site incident last February.)

So the situation isn't exactly parallel.

Then again, Forest City has regularly pushed the envelope, or cut corners, on construction activities that, whether or not they affect the safety of the building itself, impact the community very near the project site. (See the Instagram posts from resident monitor Wayne Bailey or this post about trucks on Dean Street.)

The margin for error, when a project is so close to established residences, is very small.

And it quietly gutted dozens of pre-fabricated units in the B2 tower after water penetrated them.

That can't be attributed to Greenland. But it's hard to believe that Greenland, whose American leader said, “We should all move very fast. We should catch the moment,” has put the brakes on Forest City and Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.

That's why the ultimate responsibility goes to New York City and New York State authorities.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

EB-5 gets an unskeptical mention in the New York TImes

From a Sunday Business section story in the New York Times, headlined Chinese Cash Floods U.S. Real Estate Market:
Investments in the United States provide another advantage: a pathway to a green card.
Chinese investors have been particularly aggressive at using a federal visa program called EB-5 that allows overseas citizens to put $500,000 to $1 million into a project that will create at least 10 jobs. Investors can get a green card in about two years. So far this year, 86 percent of the EB-5 visas issued worldwide have gone to Chinese.
Ha! It should be "that will purportedly create at least 10 jobs."

Hubris: developer touts "public benefit" of new infrastructure, though railyard was downsized

The 11/27/15 tweet below from Pacific Park Brooklyn represents remarkable hubris: "Investing in complicated #infrastructure makes for the biggest public benefit."

Do keep in mind that the 2005 deal to build a modernized replacement Vanderbilt Yard to store and service Long Island Rail Road trains was revised, at Forest City Ratner's request, in 2009, and accepted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The permanent railyard, instead of having nine tracks with capacity for 76 cars, will have seven tracks with capacity for 56 cars. While there would be several improvements, the new railyard would be valued at $147 million, while the MTA's Gary Dellaverson in 2009 said the previous iteration could be worth $250 million, after inflation.



Looking at discounts for Islanders game on Monday

According to the Living Social deal web site, there are some big discounts for Monday's New York Islanders game against the Colorado Avalanche, which is not exactly a premier opponent.

That's $35 for two tickets, via the re-seller Venue Kings. Note that typically sellers on sites like Living Social and Groupon take home 50% to 60% of the fee.



As shown on the Venue Kings chart below, sections 211 and 221 are not bad, since they are not in the restricted-view side of the venue, where, curiously enough, many tickets are not available. (Are those for the Barclays Center to distribute as freebies?)

Surely some tickets on these resale sites come from season ticketholders, but I have to believe some are quietly put on sale by the venue itself.


On the Venue Kings website itself, tickets start at $9.96. Is that a better deal overall??

Actually, if you're buying from Venue Kings (and many other sites), there's a big service fee, so two tickets cost $37.29, which is more than the Living Social deal. On StubHub, tickets start at $9.25, with a smaller service fee, for a total of $26.65 for two.

The official channel

Tickets officially start at $20 (see inset in screenshot below) and $15 on the re-sale market, via Ticketmaster and the Barclays Center. (I didn't check the service fee.) Either way, that makes StubHub, for this event at least, a better deal.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Holiday discounts at the Barclays Center. Lots of them.

Remember, pricing for Barclays Center events, including many Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders games, is variable.

Below is a partial screenshot from a recent promotion, offering 30% off selected basketball and hockey games.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

"Posing for holy cards": the Nets and the Thanksgiving giveaway

Yes, it may seem churlish to look critically at the Brooklyn Nets' recent charity/media event, helping give out Thanksgiving turkeys and other food to needy families via the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger.

After all, it does short-term good, helping hundreds of needy families, and shows the basketball players in unselfish mode.

But really, do you think the Nets would do this without the reciprocal promise and expectation of significant media coverage (aka "earned media")?

After all, this event, which surely cost the Brooklyn Nets more in organizational time than money--partner Key Food supplied all the food--generated coverage on their own web site (and video), television coverage via WPIX (a Barclays Center partner!) and News12, an article in the Brooklyn Paper (a Forest City Ratner tenant!), and blog mentions in Kings County Politics, the Brooklyn Reader, and NetsDaily. (And maybe more.)

Above right is a telling screenshot from the Brooklyn Reader video: that's Barclays/Nets CEO Brett Yormark in the background, masterminding the media event.

As I wrote in March 2013, community and charity events from the Nets and the Barclays Center are like "posing for holy cards," as a former food industry executive put it, regarding his company's sponsorship efforts.

In Brooklyn, there's a "sports entertainment corporation" trying to make money, distracting from more complicated issues like worker pay, the discontinued promise of $15 tickets, construction/operational impacts, and some sweet land deals.

Those are the kinds of stories the arena and Nets do not present to media outlets.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Video: dust from 535 Carlton dumpster drifts into neighborhood

So, what's the source of dust coming from the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park construction site?

According to the video shot today by resident Wayne Bailey, dust is coming from dumpsters at the 535 Carlton construction site, which extends out into the street, between Dean and Pacific streets. That means the dust not only streams out to passers-by, it starts pretty close to the houses across Carlton.



(Yes, there's a guy working on the site without a hardhat, telling his colleagues to "look out" for the annoying guy filming them.)

The promise of a Dust Management Plan

According to the Second Amended Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, required by Empire State Development of developer Forest City Ratner (and its new joint venture partner):
Prior to the commencement of construction activities for each major work phase, FCRC or its contractor(s) shall prepare a Dust Management Plan that identifies: the location of the fixtures to be used in controlling dust at the site (including without limitation hydrants or other points of water supply), any wheel washing stations, gravel placement locations, hoses, dust suppression agents and any other equipment and material to be used in complying with the dust suppression requirements of the MEC. FCRC shall require its contractors to adhere to such plans. ESD and the ESD Environmental Monitoring Firm shall be provided with the opportunity to comment on the Dust Management Plan and require revisions if warranted, prior to its implementation in the field.
There's no mention of dumpsters, actually, but surely the implication is that this dust too is supposed to be controlled, just as dust from trucks is suppressed by wheel washing and mounds of dirt are supposed to be covered with a tarp.

Remember, the modular plan was supposed to involve less waste, and thus less dust.

The 5 am concrete pour has been rescheduled to Saturday, it seems. Why the weekend work?

Remember that 5 am concrete pour at the B3 site that was supposed to happen yesterday?

It didn't happen, for reasons unexplained.

Now it is likely to occur this Saturday, with up to 90 trucks accessing the tower construction site at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, beginning at 5 am, according to the Community Notice below.

There's no explanation why a weekend, when neighbors might want to be sleep late, is acceptable when, presumably, there are five other days in the week when the pour might occur.

The notice

Community Notice
Saturday, November 28, 2015
B3 - 48 Sixth Avenue

Please be advised of the possibility that on Saturday, November 28, 2015 contractors will be working beginning at 5AM throughout the day on a large concrete pour relating to 38 Sixth Avenue. [The document erroneously said 48 Sixth]. This work is pending final permitting and logistics, but we wanted to make you aware before the holiday.

Pursuant to their permit, contractors will be completing concrete pours as part of the foundation work. The pours are expected to involve up to 90 concrete trucks, all of which will access the site via the Dean Street & 6th Avenue gates. Truck staging will take place within the project site and/or along 6thAvenue between Atlantic Avenue & Dean Street.

As always, please feel free to reach out to our offices with any questions or concerns.

Thank you for your time.

Pacific Park Brooklyn Community Liaison Office
1-866-923-5315
communityliaison@pacificparkbrooklyn.com

Empire State Development
1-212-803-3736
atlanticyards@esd.ny.gov



What's wrong? In move to Brooklyn, attendance at Islanders games is down

ESPN chart, click to enlarge
What's going on here?

The New York Islanders, upon their move to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season, were not only expected to take advantage of a suite-filled new arena that would drive revenues, they were also expected to reconstitute their fan base.

That was supposed to make up for the loss of some Long Island-based fans no longer willing to drive (and seek parking) or take the LIRR by drawing more from Brooklyn and the boroughs.

So far, that hasn't really happened--though there are some partly plausible explanations.

According to ESPN, the Islanders are averaging just 12,407 people per game, 28th in the 30-team league, in the arena with the league's second smallest capacity, 15,795, which includes some very bad seats.

That's 78.5% of capacity, 25th in the league, while in their final season at the Nassau Coliseum, they averaged 15,334 fans, or 94.8% of capacity.

Of course, the cost of seats rose 70%. But if the Islanders have already sold more than 8,000 full season-ticket plans, well, that's not a lot of casual fans adding to audience.

Now the Barclays Center, which is in charge of Islanders tickets, is straining, for example offering a $15 food and beverage credit for tonight's game against the Philadelphia Flyers, which would offset seats costing (when I checked) $45 each.  See graphic below.

Then again, seats via the arena web site for tonight start at $25, while on StubHub they start at $20. And the arena/Islanders also find ways to quietly give tickets away to fill seats, as noted by one fan.

Don't trust the numbers

Note that official attendance figures are typically exaggerated. As the Times reported, the arena/team listed the Islanders' debut home game against the Chicago Black Hawks "as a sellout, but there were many rows of empty seats, especially in the lower bowl."

Buffalo's Art Voice reported 11/5/15, "Sunday’s attendance was announced at 11,278, although it appeared that about 8000 were actually in the house which has a capacity of just over 15,000." 

What's the explanation?

Indeed, the Times's Allan Kreda, on 11/21/15, observed Islanders Are Adjusting Faster to Their New Home Than Their Fans Are:
Against the conference-leading Montreal Canadiens on Friday, the arena had swaths of red-clad fans rooting for the visitors. They yelled, “Go, Habs, go” after each Montreal goal as the Canadiens skated to a 5-3 victory.
The influx of opposing fans may have helped generate a crowd of 15,171 at Barclays, which has the league’s second-lowest capacity at 15,795, including many seats with obstructed views.
There are partly plausible explanations, including the lack of Saturday night games, the competition with the baseball Mets, and the lack of Eastern Conference opponents. Attendance should go up during the holiday season.

Still, as Kreda reported, ticket resellers report low interest, likely tied to the arena's location, which, while accessible via public transit, is less accessible to the traditional fan base.

Trying to Draw In Fans, Islanders Dip Into New Palette,  Kreda reported earlier in the month, citing a small sample of fans who like the Islanders' new third jersey, in black and white (echoing the Nets), a color scheme that has infuriated some Islanders die-hards. The Times reported:
[Arena CEO Brett] Yormark said that on average, about 5,700 fans were taking the Long Island Rail Road to the team’s games in Brooklyn. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority relayed an average closer to 5,000. But either way, the number is significant.
Ah, that's Yormark, always spinning.

Play-by-play announcer Howie Rose, according to Newsday, doesn't like the new jerseys, and tweaked Yormark for claiming that black-and-white were the borough's official colors. Yormark has since claimed they're the borough's "adopted" colors, which of course equates the borough with the Nets.

One solution: cheaper bad seats?

Why are there obstructed views? Because the original arena design, which could have easily accommodated a hockey rink, was downsized to save money and, it was said, to preclude major league hockey. So they had to retrofit the arena, which means many sections with limited view seats.

Obstructed seats, from the Barclays Center, via The Brooklyn Game


NY SportsDay's Joe McDonald suggested:
Something also needs to be done with the obstructed seats. Instead of charging 40 bucks and have a large portion of the arena empty, why not charge $5. Put the fannies in the seats and make money from the concessions. And remember you are forcing your Long Island fans to pay the LIRR fees, so maybe something cheap will get them out too.
Indeed, PuckDaddy blogger Greg Wyshynski wrote, Islanders at Barclays Center: Where terrible seats meet good intentions:
That level of self-awareness is rare among Islanders fans making their first foray into Barclays. There has been widespread anger and frustration with the move, not only because the arena features some of the oddest and most terrible sightlines in pro sports, but because the arena’s policies haven’t always been that welcoming to Islanders fans – witness the recent crackdown on fans watching warmups from the lower bowl. You need a special ticket to get downstairs before the game.

But sometimes, if you're sitting in Section 201, you get a ticket to come downstairs during the game.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The demolition begins on Dean Street, with "blighted" 495 Dean (passerby: "effing property stealers")

Contractors for developer Greenland Forest City Partners today began hand demolition of two-story 495 Dean Street, one of two 19th-century houses long owned by the family of Jerry Campbell, which were taken via eminent domain (with the financial compensation yet unresolved, as far as I know).

Campbell was evicted in May from the neighboring, three-story house, after he lost title via eminent domain.

The two-story building, which had lost its roof and most of the second floor by the time I stopped by, is one of three houses left on a 100-foot stretch east of Sixth Avenue that was claimed, as best as I could determine, not because blight magically attached to that parcel.

Rather, at least in initial plans, developer Forest City Ratner planned to use the entire lot between Dean and Pacific Streets for construction staging when the arena was being built simultaneously with four towers.

That plan became financially infeasible, and the downsized arena was decoupled from towers that were supposed to share footings and mechanicals.

The three houses at left, along with a commercial building at Pacific Street and Sixth Avenue, are being demolished for B15 (aka 664 Pacific Street), a 27-story luxury rental building--oh, and with space for a 100,000 square foot public school.

A bitter commentary

As I stood opposite the demolition site on Dean Street, a guy with headphones walked by, muttering loudly enough to be caught on the video below.

I don't know if he was commenting with any specific knowledge of the situation faced by Campbell, or whether he was reflecting the feeling that something is amiss regarding land use issues. "Stealin' somebody else's property, that's all they doin'," he declared. "Fuckin' property stealers."



Falling, and rising

In the distance, the B11 tower, aka 550 Vanderbilt, rises steadily.

Lead time, for once: next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting scheduled for December 9

A message yesterday from Empire State Development:
Greenland Forest City Partners (GLFC) and Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) will host the next Community Update (formerly known as Quality of Life) meeting. 
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
6:00 - 8:00 PM
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place, Brooklyn NY 11201
1st Floor Conference Room 
We will present an overview of the upcoming construction activities surrounding the project. Please plan to arrive promptly in order to provide time for presentations and questions and answers from the community members. 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.
The 16-day lead time for the announcement represents belated progress. After community complaints last month regarding the confirmation announcements for scheduled meetings, three members of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, Jaime Stein, Barika Williams, and Bertha Lewis stressed the importance of sufficient notice.

Joe Chan of Empire State Development suggested, "Why can't we commit to a bare minimum in terms of public notice," suggesting "at least 14, 21, 28 days notice."

The progress regarding lead time, however, does not dispel the recognition that, as state official Marion Phillips III put it, "it's a developer meeting," facilitated by the state. Once the Quality of Life sessions treated community members as valid partners, and community groups and local officials helped set the agenda.

The need for better construction updates: Atlantic Avenue crane wasn't removed until last night, actually

Ok, the Atlantic Avenue crane for the Barclays Center green roof was supposed to be disassembled this past Friday overnight, ending at 10 am Saturday.

That didn't happen. Rather, the work--I'm not sure when it actually began--was finished yesterday afternoon and early evening, according to photos taken by resident Wayne Bailey, and flatbed trailers were waiting along Atlantic Avenue, including a bus stop.

Bottom line: we need a real-time update of construction activities from Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park developer Greenland Forest City Partners, as well as Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards.

We also need responses to Bailey's monitoring, including reports yesterday of a mysterious smell outside the 666 Pacific Street site, which is being prepared for demolition.

The crane last night; note removal of blue construction fence outside Atlantic Avenue entrance to Barclays Center

Trailer outside Barclays Center waiting for crane disassembly


Trailer on Atlantic Avenue (apparently) waiting for crane disassembly

Flatbed on Atlantic Avenue (apparently) waiting for crane disassembly

Prokhorov counsels patience, avoids questions about Nets' attendance, etc.

From the Record, Mikhail Prokhorov weighs in on Nets slow start:
The Record asked Prokhorov about several problems hanging over the Nets, including their lack of future first round draft picks; the drop-off in attendance.
Prokhorov was also asked if he’s worried the Nets might lose fans to the suddenly-surging Knicks, and if his franchise missed an opportunity to gain traction with New York fans over the last few years when the Knicks were struggling.
But Prokhorov did not address any of these questions in the email.

Instead, he sent a message of patience for his struggling team.
Devin Kharpertian of the Brooklyn Game suggested that Mikhail Prokhorov’s most interesting answers were the ones he didn’t give.

Added Net Income (aka Bob Windrem) of NetsDaily:
Prokhorov, of course, is as hamstrung by the Nets lack of flexibility as those he works for. There's little he can do under the CBA to improve the team's situation. Some in the organization think that he and Nets chairman Dmitry Razumov will not let the Nets be "really bad," but no one is suggesting just how they would do that.

A college basketball tourney at Barclays. A "very sparse crowd."

From Tim Bontemps in the Washington Post, Ben Simmons has assumed the mantle of the NBA’s next great hope:
For the 51 NBA scouts and personnel executives in attendance — a significant portion of the very sparse crowd that partially filled Barclays Center’s lower bowl Monday night — it was a glimpse of what [LSU's Ben] Simmons, an Australian who is projected to be one of the top picks in the 2016 NBA draft, is capable of.
So how many people attended the FanDuel Legends Classic last night? The overall attendance was not reported.

Yes, it was a cold night. And a Monday night a few days before a holiday. And maybe the problems with FanDuel, a big-spending fantasy sports site that suspended its New York operations in the wake of a cease-and-desist order from New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, played a part.

I wondered if the price was too high. For tonight, the final day of the two-day tournaments, seats--lower-bowl seats--start at $15.00, as noted in the graphic at left.

This seems suggest that seats should be $5, or $10, (and without service charge).

Then again, at some point, the increase in revenue triggers an increase in staff. And low-spending fans may not spend much at the concessions.

The creative team behind the Barclays Center is surely thinking about it. Maybe we'll see discounts tickets bundled with a modest amount of food and beverage credit, which then triggers more concessions spending. They're already doing something like that with the New York Islanders.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Proposal in Albany would require consultants like BerlinRosen, close to de Blasio and Forest City, to register as lobbyists

It hasn't made big headlines yet, but a significant change is percolating in Albany, where the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) is proposing to  require "strategic consulting firms" like BerlinRosen and SKDKnickerbocker--which, respectively, work for and have worked for Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner--to register as lobbyists.

Chris Bragg of the Albany Times-Union broke the news last Thursday, in JCOPE clarifies proposal targeting ‘strategic consultants’:
Some of New York’s most successful “strategic consulting” firms – such as Manhattan-based BerlinRosen and SKDKnickerbocker – have close relationships with politicians who are their campaign clients, and also represent interests with business before these clients. But their employees hardly ever register as lobbyists.

These firms maintain, however, that they do not actually ask those elected officials to make policy decisions benefitting those interests, and focus on public relations enhanced by insight into the thinking of public officials.

But JCOPE’s advisory opinion, if eventually passed, would expand the definition of lobbying beyond how its traditionally been interpreted by the industry and regulators. It is intended to cover not just direct lobbying, but consultants that use their connections to powerful officials to grease the wheels for direct lobbying – or for “door opening,” as JCOPE director of lobbying and senior counsel Martin Levine described at a commission meeting on Tuesday.
This proposal must be voted on, after public comments, which can be made until December 4. 

The news was treated as a victory by True News blogger Gary Tilzer, who has regularly pounded on the issue, trumpeting, "For Two Years True News Has Beaten the Shit out of Berlin Rosen."

NY1, which in April produced an investigation on the relationship between BerlinRosen and Mayor Bill de Blasio, last Thursday produced Political Consulting Firms in NY State May Soon Need to Register as Lobbyists, noting that, when  de Blasio announced a new plan for housing for the homeless, he did so in the lobby of a residential development run by a BerlinRosen client.

The New York Times on Nov. 5 published a front-page investigation, Mayor de Blasio’s Hired Guns: Private Consultants Help Shape City Hall, exploring the role of multiple firms. It has not yet reported on JCOPE's new proposal. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Forest City's Gilmartin in Businessweek: "What I Wear to Work"

Intercepted (imaginary) memo from an unnamed Dean of Academic Studies:
Rarely does a document appear that might be consulted in so many of our academic and evening programs: Gender Studies, Real Estate Development, Executive Leadership, Work-Life Balance, Luxury Brand Building, and Personal Shopping.
Please see, from Bloomberg Businessweek, What I Wear to Work: Forest City Ratner’s MaryAnne Gilmartin: The real estate CEO shows her feminine side." Please note that Gilmartin's "nebbish" predecessor/boss Bruce Ratner did not provoke as many avenues for discussion. 




Saturday, November 21, 2015

From the latest Construction Alert: 5 am concrete pour Tuesday; 550 Vanderbilt to reach 18th floor; demo on Dean

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Alert (below), for the two weeks starting Monday Nov. 23, a potential 14-hour job--the pouring of the center mat foundation for the B3 tower at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue--could begin at 5 am.

No date was attached. By early afternoon, just a few hours after the alert was circulated, the 78th Precinct tweeted that the pour would occur on Tuesday, Nov. 24, and that concrete trucks would enter via Pacific Street and back into the 6th Avenue gate--a somewhat confusing piece of information. (Should people avoid the block?)

The Construction Alert, which is often issued on the day it's dated, or even the day after, was circulated yesterday by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners. Surely they recognized that they had to get the word out ahead of time. But shouldn't this minimal amount of lead time be routine?

A demo, and a top-out 

Note that demolition of three houses on Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue will begin during this period. They've already been allowed to deteriorate.

Note that the 550 Vanderbilt Avenue condo building, aka B11, is expected to top out "with 18th floor which is expected to be complete by the end of next week." (Not sure whether "next week" means the end of the week beginning Nov. 30, or the week after that.)

After-hours work

Also note that "Saturday work to address field conditions" is expected at the B2 (Dean Street and Flatbush Avenues), B3, and B15 (Pacific Street and Sixth Avenue) sites  "Saturday work and work up until 9 pm during weekdays to address field conditions" is expected at the B14 tower, at Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues.

Weekend electric utility work will continue in the LIRR tunnel and may begin in the Vanderbilt Yard itself.

Below are other instances of new work in the project, taken verbatim from the alert.

B3 - 38 Sixth Avenue
• Previously scheduled temporary electric work was postponed but will take place during this reporting period. This will involve a two day closing of the sidewalk along Dean Street, which will be done in accordance with obtained DOT permits.
• Framing and pouring of the south and east foundation walls will take place this reporting period.

Arena Green Roof
• Replacement of Barclay’s roof identification will be taking place during this reporting period.

Yard Work
• Weekend Yard/West Portal work that requires coordination with LIRR operations may be performed during the reporting period. Work is expected to include West Portal Structural Column Steel footing/foundation forming, rebar installation, and concrete work.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Is funding for affordable tower (535 Carlton?) on hold?

Politico NY yesterday reported Cuomo threatening de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, sources say:
In another apparent dispute between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, the governor has threatened to cancel funding for federal tax-exempt bonds that would finance the mayor's affordable housing plan, multiple sources have confirmed.
Cuomo's office indicated in the last week it would not give City Hall any funding for the bond program through the end of the calendar year, despite an earlier commitment, sources said. Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever said that the governor never threatened to cancel the funding.
The state controls a finite amount of "bond cap"--a limit on the total of tax-exempt funding, the burden of which mostly falls on federal taxpayers. At issue, apparently, is the state's discretion to give more than the required $300 million it has already given the city, which anticipated another $200 million to $300 million, even as the statewide bond cap is oversubscribed.

Reports Politico:
Among the projects in question is a 299-unit affordable housing project as part of the Pacific Park development formerly known as Atlantic Yards.
That sounds like the 535 Carlton affordable housing tower, B14, which started last year (but maybe was relying on bond cap from this year?). It's also been described as having 298 units.

The other affordable housing project that started this year was 38 Sixth Avenue, B3, with 303 units.

Both were to get about $75 million in tax-exempt funding.

Given developer Forest City Ratner's ties to both the governor and mayor, I'd be surprised if the ultimate compromise excludes the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park tower.

Note the follow up coverage today in Politico NY, which stated, "After POLITICO New York initially reported on the pending crisis Thursday afternoon, talks seemed to be improving.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Atlantic Avenue crane will finally be removed, starting Friday overnight; road constricted through 10 am Saturday

A Community Notice (below) circulated yesterday by Pacific Park Brooklyn indicated that Atlantic Avenue outside the Barclays Center will be narrowed starting "overnight hours" Friday (unspecified_ through 10 am Saturday to accommodate the belated (see below) disassembly and removal of the crane used to work on the arena's green roof.

Thus, both crosswalks across Atlantic Avenue at Fort Greene Place (from the Atlantic Terminal Mall to the plaza in front of the Barclays Center), will be closed, and both eastbound and westbound lanes on Atlantic Avenue will be narrowed, likely triggering vehicle delays.

The eastbound B45 bus stop at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues will be temporarily closed, with passengers for that bus advised to either walk 1,500 feet east to Atlantic Avenue and Cumberland Street or take the eastbound B65 bus on Dean Street at  Fifth Avenue.

Traffic Enforcement Agents will be provided to assist with vehicular and pedestrian movements. Variable Message Signs will be in place to alert drivers.


The previous timetable

Note that, as announced in June 2014, the crane was supposed to be up for exactly three months, from August through October 2014, as shown in the tentative timeline (below_ circulated at the time.

Instead, it was up for 13 months, having been installed in late October 2014. A month later, when Kenneth Adams of Empire State Development lamented Atlantic Avenue congestion, he was told by his agency's point man on Atlantic Yards that the crane would be up through May 2015.

That was six months off. In October, a Construction Update said it would be disassembled on October 24, subject to permits. That didn't happen, either.

Forest City Ratner last month explained that, even without the crane, Atlantic Avenue will be constricted through late 2017. I found the explanation dubious that only in June 2014 did they realize the work would proceed differently than announced weeks earlier.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Video: congestion on Dean Street caused by truck waiting for arena loading dock causes cars to take detour via sidewalk

Update Nov. 24, six days later: Empire State Development's Nicole Jordan wrote Wayne Bailey, who'd asked for accountability, a reply that conveyed apology without penalty: 

"Thanks again for bringing this to our attention. I was informed by Barclays that there was a miscommunication somewhere between the loading dock downstairs and staff at street level managing vehicle intake. Barclays recognizes that this condition is unacceptable and is working internally to eliminate congestion build up on the arena block."

Screenshot from video below
This is astounding. Earlier today, the intersection of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue was congested when an 18-wheeler simply stopped in its tracks on Dean, waiting for the Barclays Center loading dock to become free.

The video below, shot by resident Wayne Bailey, lasts more than three minutes, but the situation was even longer.

And as shown in the video, cars and even a bicycle were waved onto the south sidewalk of Dean Street to pass the truck.

It's a reminder how little margin for error there is when the loading dock is placed on a narrow street, and that street is already constricted for construction of the B2 tower, and

As I reported in May 2013, the Barclays Center loading dock was described at a New York City Planning Commission hearing, in contrast with Madison Square Garden, as operating in a "seamless" way.

It wasn't true then, and it's still not true. The question is whether city and state officials will do anything about it.


Now that Barclays has been fined again, will name on Barclays Center get reconsidered?

Today, Morgan Pehme, writer, filmmaker and executive director of the good-government group Effective NY, noted that Barclays agreed to pay an additional $150 million penalty to the New York State Department of Financial Services for misconduct related to automated, electronic foreign exchange (FX) trading.

That's on top of many larger fines to the state and federal agencies, as well as a felony plea.

In other words, an elected official need not call for a name change. Rather, they should just ask for contracts to be enforced.

In the Atlantic, de Blasio's affordable housing record gets a casual cheer

From Molly Ball's article in the December Atlantic, The Equalizer: Bill de Blasio vs. Inequality: The New York City mayor has some big ideas, but they may be too much too fast.:
Under de Blasio, the city has also mandated that employers offer paid sick leave, raised the minimum wage for certain workers, and created a new ID card that helps undocumented immigrants get access to banks and other services. The card has proved hugely popular—more than half a million have been issued. Some rents have been frozen, for the first time in half a century—providing relief to more than 1 million New Yorkers—and more than 20,000 units of affordable housing have been created or preserved. Together with Police Commissioner William Bratton, the community-policing pioneer who held the job under Giuliani in the 1990s, de Blasio has dialed back the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy and stopped arresting people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

De Blasio, in other words, is making the city less unequal, little by little, just as he promised to do. “The sheer amount of dollars de Blasio’s policies has shifted into the hands of working class New Yorkers is truly staggering,” the Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez wrote in September. “No wonder the 1%—those who had it so good for so long—want him out.”
As I wrote in September regarding another national profile of de Blasio, in Vanity Fair, if only Ball had actually delved into de Blasio's willingness to champion unaffordable affordable housing, as in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, claiming the 535 Carlton building was a template.

This, by the way, was Gonzalez's sole reference to the housing plan in his column:
After spending his first 20 months at City Hall launching ambitious programs to reduce income inequality, establish universal full-day pre-K and after-school programs and kicking off a massive affordable housing program, while also keeping the crime rate low, de Blasio is taking his case to the voters.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why is cost of Pacific Park parking off the charts? (more than $100,000 per space)

Something doesn't compute. Check out the chart below from Forest City Enterprises' Form 10-Q, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission 11/3/15.

The cost of "Pacific Park - Parking" is $99.6 million. The footnote points to 950 parking spaces, part of a total of 1,200 spaces for both arenagoers and residents. (Remember, parking was reduced.)

That's $104,842 per space, which is off the charts, and seemingly twice that of peak numbers in the city. I asked Forest City for any explanation, but didn't get an answer.

How much should parking cost?

According to a December 2013 Department of City Planning study (as Streetsblog cited 1/23/14), with emphasis added:
According to industry data, the median parking structure costs in New York City are $21,000 per space or $63 per square foot to build – the highest in the country.12 In contrast, the national average for structured parking costs $16,000 per space or $48 per square foot to build.13 These estimates are for parking structures generally, and do not account for factors specific to accessory residential parking in a dense environment – the cost of providing underground parking, which includes excavation and is sensitive to subsurface conditions, and the structural demands of supporting a residential building above the parking facility. Anecdotal information suggests that these factors can increase the cost of constructing structured parking to as much as $50,000 per space in higher-density areas. 

Rising costs

The Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park parking tab has gone up somewhat. In this 6/5/15 Forest City investor presentation, the cost was $90.6 million. A 10% increase is not radical. But the previous base of even $90.6 million was already a huge sum.

It's not clear whether the sum encompasses other costs of some kind or reflect a per-space cost that is higher than any peer project.

If the latter, it would be understandable why they wanted to reduce the amount of parking from the 3,670 spaces analyzed in the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement to 2,896 parking space analyzed in the 2014 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and then the "reduced parking alternative" of 1,200 total.

An experiment emerges

Generally speaking, a reduction in parking in a transit-rich area makes sense. In this case, the very limited arena-related parking, in combination with no residential parking permits, means more people will compete for limited free street parking.

In this case, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park will be an experiment, as arenagoers who still drive will compete with that fraction--unknown, for now, of course--of residents who have cars.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Massaging history: principal in raising EB-5 funds for Atlantic Yards claims all projects "are in poor areas of Brooklyn..."

Five years ago, I reported on the deceptive marketing by the New York City Regional Center (NYCRC), a privately owned, federally authorized investment pool, of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards as an EB-5 investment, raising $228 million in in 2010. (Since then another $349 million in EB-5 funds for the project has been raised via another firm.)

Well, the deception continues, as talk about EB-5 rises, given that a key aspect of the program is up for Congressional renewal next month. And the deception is on video, as I describe below.

Remember, under EB-5, immigrant investors who care more about green cards than investment return offer low-cost loans of $500,000 that purportedly create or retain ten jobs each. Developers reap low-cost financing and middlemen take their cut.

The investors don't mind low or no interest because they want the green cards and, anyhow, they're just parking their $500,000 for five years or so, the main sacrifice foregone interest. (The investment is supposed to be "at risk," and some tiny fraction of investors do lose their money.) The federal government lets private entities profit from valuable public assets: green cards.

The NYCRC on a panel

Guess what, the NYCRC, which has partnered on projects involving numerous governmental entities, including the MTA and the Port Authority, not only was unscathed by critical press coverage by Reuters and this blog.
The firm has grown so successful that "they’re just sort of not making loans anymore, they made some money and they've kind of retired," a Forest City official said earlier this year. (Actually, they're not so much retired as just stopped taking on new projects.)

So NYCRC co-founder George Olsen is an eminence in the EB-5 world, appearing with two former state Governors in a 9/17/15 panel discussion in Washington, DC, EB-5 Program: Successes, Challenges and Opportunities for States and Localities, hosted by the Bi-Partisan Policy Center, or BPC. (Note the absence of any EB-5 critics on the panel.)

The issue of gerrymandering

Please go to 20:49 of the video, when moderator Theresa Brown, the BPC's Director of Immigration Policy (and a former staffer at pro-EB-5 organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Immigration Lawyers Association), gingerly brought up the issue of "gerrymandering," saying "it's been a little bit of a controversial area."



Gerrymandered TEA, Wall Street Journal
Actually, it's been controversial since a front-page New York Times article in December 2011, which followed up in part on some less-publicized coverage, including from me.

You see, the standard EB-5 investment is $1 million, but no savvy immigrant investor shells out that sum. The figure is cut in half if the investment is in a rural area or a zone of high unemployment, or Targeted Employment Area (TEA). Naturally, nearly all investments are in TEAs, and it's in a state's interest to draw them creatively, thus attracting cheap capital.

To create TEAs, states go through convoluted exercises to create strings of census tracts which average 150% of the national unemployment rate. Just a week before the panel, the Wall Street Journal reported on the distended shape of the TEA created to support a Related project in Hudson Yards. (See graphic at left.)

"The states get to decide," Brown stated, "and sometimes it is where the residents are largely unemployed, and sometimes it's adjacent to, and there's this talk of gerrymandering."

Olsen's response

The NYCRC's Olsen was unbowed. He referenced his firm's work with the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is one census tract "has zero unemployment because no one lives there... so you need to combine census tracts."

If a TEA were limited to a Congressional District, he added, "I'm going to be accused of gerrymandering," because some of those districts have odd shapes.

"We try to work in high unemployment areas," he continued. "All our projects are in poor areas of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Upper Manhattan, the Lower East Side. So I really can't address what happens with other people."

(Emphasis added)

Oh, really? (Challenged by Reuters in 2010, Olsen blamed deception in marketing EB-5 on his firm's partners, perhaps in the same even tone.) Remember the "Bed-Stuy Boomerang," the odd TEA drawn for the NYCRC  to connect the not-so-high-unemployment area around the Atlantic Yards site to struggling parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant? 
Atlantic Yards site in blue

And didn't Olsen's firm raise money for the Battery Maritime Building in wealthy Lower Manhattan, which jumps the East River to encompass the Farragut Houses in Brooklyn, as the New York Times reported four years ago?

The lingering problem

One panelist, former Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, referenced the Wall Street Journal article (as WSJ reporter Eliot Brown pointed out), saying that a high jobless district that's contiguous "only if you can walk on part of the Hudson to get to another portion of Manhattan does seem to be somewhat beyond the intent of creating a Targeted Employment Area."

That, former Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe followed up, was a "testament to American ingenuity. You can set up any type of program you want to.... and we've got really smart people that can figure out how to get it another direction."

And that's the problem, as regional center component of EB-5 faces renewal by December 11. (Here's a report focused on a split within the world of real estate regarding EB-5 reforms, while one prominent lawmaker, who's in the minority, would like to kill the program in its entirety.)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A lingering quote: the Barclays Center as "elephant in the room" when it comes to community planning

Yes, this is a year old, but I didn't catch it, and it's worth remembering.

 Developers Envision Hotel, Housing and Retail at Crown Heights Armory, DNAinfo's Rachel Holliday Smith reported 10/20/14 on proposals for the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights.

At a New York City Economic Development Coporation meeting " to present some of the developers' proposals and get feedback from residents," NYC EDC Vice President Lydia Downing offered a telling quote:
Throughout the meeting, EDC officials said repeatedly that they would take the community's input into consideration and contrasted the process with what Downing called "the elephant in the room," the Barclays Center.
“One thing I want to be very clear about is that this is going through a different process. The Barclays Center project went through a state process that did not require as much community input,” she said.
Still true.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Save up to 31%: at Costco, discount tickets for Nets and Islanders

There are all kinds of ways to sell tickets, and at different prices. So notice two lower-level ticket vouchers, available via Costco, to see the Nets or the Islanders for $144.99, or $72.50 per seat, up to 31% savings. The Nets and Islanders tickets are also available online from Costco.

The only Nets games excluded involved the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, and the Detroit Pistons (the day after Christmas).

It's worth noting that, while the Islanders promotion shows captain John Tavares, the Nets promotion shows a DUMBO scene with the Manhattan Bridge in the background, as if an identification with the borough can still cut it.





Friday, November 13, 2015

Transparency? Asbestos abatement notice cites Sunday, late night work, but is absent from Construction Update


There's something a little confusing about the Asbestos Abatement Notice posted outside 666 Pacific Street, at the corner of Sixth Avenue, a building slated for demolition for the B15 tower (aka 664 Pacific).

It indicates that the work schedule is Monday through Sunday, 7 am through 11:45 pm. That's quite different from the previous notice, 7 am to 7 pm Monday to Saturday, which was up last Sunday when work was going on, disturbing neighbors.

However, neither late-night work nor Sunday work were indicated in the Construction Update issued Monday, Nov. 9, by Empire State Development (ESD) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

I queried ESD yesterday as to why, but didn't hear back. I'll post an update if and when I learn more.

Forest City's Canela saluted by CO for rebuilding modular work force (and where's report on B2 cost increase?)

Among The New Players of Commercial Real Estate and CRE Finance--25 lenders and debt brokers under 35 in the region, and 30 leasing, sales, development and investment professionals under 30 years in the city--is Elizabeth Canela, 27, Senior Project Manager of External Affairs Division at Forest City Ratner Companies.

She doesn't address the public at meetings, but she's around, part of the team led by External Affairs Senior VP Ashley Cotton.

The profile notes that Canela, who began at Forest City some two years ago as an intern, interviewed 30 people a week to re-staff the modular factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard after Forest City's split with Skanska.

Some 80% of the workers are minorities, and 11% female, and Canela, who grew up in the Ingersoll Houses, is tracking NYCHA residents. "Creating access and opportunities in real ways is important,” she said.

Canela's achievement is worth noting. 

(As is the comparison--we don't know--between the number of construction workers promised and currently slated.)

At the same time, the Commercial Observer and other real estate news outlets might also report that Forest City underestimated the time it would take to reopen the factory, leading to a $30 million increase in estimated costs for the B2 modular tower. In other words, Canela and colleagues were playing catch-up.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Double Crossing Brooklyn: Brooklyn Museum's hosting of Real Estate Summit draws protest from artists and anti-gentrification activists

Perhaps it was overdue. 

The ongoing relationship between the Brooklyn Museum and the city's real estate high-flyers is under fire, as artists and anti-gentrification activists are protesting the museum's willingness to rent space to the Sixth Annual Brooklyn Real Estate Summit, an industry event.

The panels and networking opportunities Nov. 17 aim at new sources of profit--and, as the protesters point out, foster gentrification and displacement. (I covered the summit last year for City Limits, noting it was not the place for some of the "dicey discussions" inspired by Brooklyn's boom.)

Hence the cleverly-named "Double Crossing Brooklyn" protest, a play on the museum's recent "Crossing Brooklyn" exhibition, and the satirical description of real estate principals as pioneers in " for-profit creative placemaking." Protesters are crowdfunding to pay for signs and flyers, city permits, and props. Those involved include the Artist Studio Affordability Project and the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network.

An open letter and petition points out:
We feel that this event is using the very culture we create and support to endorse profit-driven investment.
The mission of the Brooklyn Museum is to “act as a bridge between the rich artistic heritage of world cultures … to serve its diverse public as a dynamic, innovative, and welcoming center for learning through the visual arts.” Yet the Real Estate Summit states it will teach attendees “how to create value in places like Crown Heights, Williamsburg, Park Slope, Downtown Brooklyn, where it seems values are already maxed out.” As artists, critics, and writers, we cannot let this happen without speaking up and joining all the residents of Brooklyn who oppose the Summit.
The African-American community of Crown Heights, which is the Museum's home, [AYR: well, next door to Prospect Heights] is in crisis, suffering daily displacements and tenant harassment. A mile or two away from the Museum, in Gowanus, over 300 artists just lost their studios in one building alone. Both of these examples are direct results of the tactics of the very people who are being welcomed by the Museum at this upcoming Summit. 
They have asked the museum to change its rental policies, cancel the rental gig (not likely),  convene an affordable housing and affordable workspace Summit (the Queens Museum has done, actually), put a rep from an organization dedicated to affordable space on the museum's board, and require that attendees at the summit make real commitments to truly affordable space."

In response, the museum's new director, Anne Pasternak--who inherited the museum's practice of renting to such events--responded, saying they asked conference organizers to invite artists and organizers to speak, promised to host a separate forum on affordable issues, and will examine policies for hosting events.

The offer to let a single artist speak at the summit, according to a report in the Times, was rejected by protesters.

Art & real estate

Pasternak's response, though seemingly sincere, likely doesn't change a fundamental dynamic, in which organizations like the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Brooklyn Historical Society (which also host real estate confabs) raise money from rentals and also rely on real estate industry wealth for philanthropic support. 

After all, a major player in such real estate summits is Ofer Cohen, a member of the Brooklyn Museum's Board of Advisors, and president of TerraCRG. The Treasurer of the museum's Board of Trustees is David Berliner, the Chief Operating Officer of Forest City Ratner.

Also, despite the frustration and fury expressed by the protesters, art and commerce have a long history. As sociologist Jerome Krase commented on the Times article, "the greatest irony in this matter is that the museum has always been a positive value for local residential real estate values. in other words, it can't help but attract the more affluent."

In 2008, the museum provoked a protest by honoring Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner at a gala. Ratner's Barclays Center, led by art maven Berliner, has generated good publicity thanks to prudent deployment of quality art, such as the sculpture Ona. And Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park similarly generated publicity with the mural fest Pacific Park Arts, covering a giant construction fence.

The Brooklyn Museum's Pasternak, in her former role leading the estimable Creative Time, in 2014 produced the enormously successful Kara Walker project, A Subtlety, at the Domino Sugar site in Williamsburg, stating that they were "delighted that in the process we are providing the opportunity for the public to see this historic building for what may be last time."

It was, on many levels, a provocative and successful piece, yet at the same time, as Bucky Turco observed, took a pass on the implications of the giant New Domino real estate project it was distracting from.

The Eric Adams response

One wild card regarding the November 17 summit is the participation of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, known for his "Build Baby Build" enthusiasm and his gush for Bruce Ratner. He has another side, too.

As the Real Deal reported yesterday, Eric Adams steals show at Compass event with epic gentrification rant, using "his introductory address at a panel discussion hosted by high-end real estate firm Compass to rail against 'unscrupulous' developers who, he says, have turned New York City’s hippest borough into a 'cesspool of anger.'"

That was at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, another nonprofit deeply intersecting with real estate, whose board was long chaired by Ratner."

“Bed-Stuy used to belong to people,” Adams said, in Katherine Clarke's report. “So did Brownsville and Harlem. Do you know how it painful it is to have the property you grew up next door to – and your mother told you to buy but you didn’t – to have someone else come in and buy it for $1 million?”

That's just a tad selective, because there's a difference between clearly unscrupulous tactics--deed fraud, forcing out tenants through withholding of services--and the process of the market, which public officials like Adams are supposed to shape through wise public policy.

Also, of course, some of those property owners have been longstanding owners making a profit. Also, as Clarke noted, Adams has collected significant contributions from the real estate industry.

As Clarke reported, Nikolai Fedak of the industry-boosting blog YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard), warned that “Change is a reality they’ll have to accept whether they like it or not.”

Art world coverage

See coverage in Hyperallergic, which also cited the open letter from artist and organizer Quinter, who cited rent pressures on herself and her neighbors, and also wrote:
Workshop presenters also ask, "What is the next Atlantic Yards?", invoking a notorious mega-development project most native to Brooklyn shudder to think of, rife as it was with lying and manipulation by developer Forest City Ratner and featuring ludicrous "affordable" units going to households earning more than $100,000 a year. With such a dearth of truly affordable housing, the last thing we need is another Atlantic Yards.
Note coverage in ArtNet News, where Ben Davis analyzed the agenda, including “Mixed Use Strategies for Retaining Brooklynites."
Reading over the title, I briefly thought it was some kind of fleeting, tokenistic gesture at social conscience. Like a human, I thought “retaining Brooklynites" might mean preserving the fabric of existing Brooklyn communities.
As it turns out, it concentrates on how to keep wealthy shoppers in the borough rather than going to Manhattan to satisfy their desire for boutique goods and services. 
Davis also pointed out that the term "artists" often serves as "an unexamined code for college-educated, creative-class types, disproportionately white and disproportionately from middle-class backgrounds," though artists already live in neighborhoods to which "arists" move.

Davis writes:
In a way, the Brooklyn Real Estate Summit does us a favor. It puts a face on something—“gentrification"—that gets talked about in a too-abstract way, as if it were some natural process. Gentrification is planned, and here you have its planners, set to gather in the museum's Great Hall and plot “The Next Stage in Brooklyn's Development." Literally.