Skip to main content

Public amenity or business deal? How odd silence about arena's Resorts World Casino NYC Plaza bolsters "Brooklyn Behemoth"

Resorts World Casino NYC signage over door; click to enlarge
It's pretty hard to miss, the signage over the Barclays Center entrance announcing Resorts World Casino NYC Plaza, as I reported last September.

But the Barclays Center has been curiously reticent about this new sponsor.

Perhaps they're reticent about the taint of gambling.

But I suspect that arena operators, as well as developer Greenland Forest City Partners, seek to avoid attention to the branding of a plaza that GFCP promotes as a public amenity.

And that's part of a strategy to get state permission--after public hearings--to transfer the huge bulk of the unbuilt tower over that plaza at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues across the street to Site 5, which is today home to Modell's and P.C. Richard and already approved for a substantial 250-foot, 439,050-square-foot building.

Site 5 from southern border at Pacific Street;
Bear's Garden in foreground is not part of planned project
The combined bulk, including the potential transfer, would be some 1.55 million square feet, the biggest tower in Brooklyn, nearly as bulky as the 1066-foot-New York Times Tower in Midtown, and far bulkier than the Chrysler Building. I call it the "Brooklyn Behemoth."

It's a gambit, perhaps with the fallback to agree to a "smaller" building, given that row-house Brooklyn is literally across Pacific Street. So it's important to remember that business decisions, not planning principles, drive this deal.

("You don't want a 25-story building next to a single-family home," said the real estate industry's chief lobbyist, Steve Spinola, in 2014.)

The plaza offers crucial assistance in wrangling Barclays Center crowds, thus benefiting owners of the arena operating company. The plaza can be rented out to private patrons. And the plaza sponsorship has been sold.  So people should start saying "Resorts World Casino NYC Plaza."

Unofficial mockup of potential bulk of Site 5 based on Gehry Partners rendering before arena was redesigned in 2009.

No public notice, professed ignorance

I couldn't find a press release announcing Resorts World, which last fall apparently replaced the Daily News as the arena sponsor, though some parts of the Barclays Center web site, such as the page allowing people to rent this privately-controlled space, have not yet been updated. (See screenshot at right.)

Nor could I get answers from those who should know. And at the 10/14/15 Community Update meeting, as I reported, arena representatives were curiously close-mouthed and professed to be uninformed.

"Is Resorts the sole sponsor" of the plaza, I asked, pointing out that the Daily News signage had been diminished.

"I have no idea," responded Forest City Ratner Chief of Staff Ashley Cotton. "We can find out." (They didn't.)

Arena Community Relations Manager Terence Kelly said these were "big operations" and he was "not well informed enough to answer that." He suggested sending a query to arena public relations. manager Barry Baum (who'd already ignored my question).

The long game

I suspect that, however much Resorts World sought the signage and public impact of sponsorship, the Barclays Center made an internal decision or agreement to not call attention to this sponsor, perhaps because of the gambling, but likely for larger business reasons.

Site 5 from Fourth and Atlantic Avenues
At that point, Forest City Ratner was the majority owner of the arena holding company. It then sold that majority--as well as the rest of its share in the Brooklyn Nets--to Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim, which consolidated full control of both arena and team.

Then, with Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park majority owner Greenland Holdings, the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners proceeded to float the highly questionable plan to get permission to transfer the bulk from B1, over the arena/plaza, to Site 5.

Cotton at the 3/15/16 Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meeting cited three justifications for the shift: delivering jobs, keeping the plaza as permanent open space, and "activating" the Atlantic Avenue corridor.

While I wrote wrote most skeptically about the latter issue, I looked at the video again. Here's Cotton's quote: "Number two, a key thing we think we can accomplish with this is keeping the plaza permanent open space."

Naming the plaza

Imagine if Cotton had said "keeping the Resorts World Casino NYC Plaza permanent open space" or "keeping the [sponsor to be named later] Plaza permanent open space"?

It's not a park. It's a private amenity that has some benefit to the public. But it's far more useful to the arena as a tool to leverage public approval for, or at least obfuscation regarding, a planned tower that--tellingly--they have refused to portray in any renderings.

Perhaps only after this Site 5 project is approved--and there must be public hearings and approval by Empire State Development, a state authority controlled by the governor--will we start hearing the name "Resorts World Casino NYC Plaza."

One public mention in a press release

Interestingly enough, I recently did find exactly one Barclays Center press release , dated 10/8/15 and thus well before my question, mentioning this new sponsor.

The press release, announcing the start of the New York Islanders' season in Brooklyn, stated that arena doors would open with "live mannequins on the Barclays Center Resorts World Casino NYC Plaza."


Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…