Skip to main content

Was school not considered for southeast block because developer was planning to sell two sites?

Placard on construction fence at 664 Pacific
inaccurately predicts completion as "4th quarter of 2018"
Now that we know that the school at 664 Pacific (aka B15) is delayed until seemingly 2020--in February, an affidavit from the developer said it would take four years--it's worth looking back at a suggested alternative.

Local elected officials and school advocates, however concerned about the location near the Barclays Center and a police and fire station, backed the B15 plan, thinking it was worth the risk to get a dedicated middle school by 2018. That was the opening date predicted as of last year, though it was already jeopardized (and, indeed, as of this year, they started saying 2019).

The three Community Boards sharing the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park site were more cautious, raising questions about the school site, within a 27-story market-rate rental building, and, in the case of Community Board 2, flatly suggesting a move.

And hindsight now raises a question: was an alternative school site not considered because developer Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP) was already considering a sale of three building sites?

Looking back

CB 2, noting that the School Construction Authority did not consider an alternative site, proposed instead "building B13, on Block 1129 (bounded by Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street, Carlton Avenue and Pacific Street), [which] has the same construction timetable as B15 but is further from the arena, the major thoroughfares, and the public safety facilities."

The "same construction timetable" referred to the already out-of-date August 2014 tentative timetable that had both buildings opening by February 2018. B13 was supposed to start construction next month, while adjacent B12 was supposed to start construction in July 2015; neither has moved ahead.


Both of those condo buildings are delayed, an executive from GFCP said last week. Both are among the three building sites--along with B4, at the northeast flank of the arena--that are being marketed to outside investors, a plan announced in April.

Consider this (as a reader pointed out): if GFCP as of last year was already contemplating selling those valuable sites, why would it complicate (or impede) the sale by proceeding with a school? (Those are the only available sites that would be built soon enough to partially mitigate a shortfall in school seats.)

In other words, it's reasonably to ask if the choice of B15 site was aimed not merely to deliver a school relatively soon--and to paper over the use of eminent domain to remove property owners-- but also to serve the developer's business needs.

Depending on the role and timing of outside investors, it's still possible that the buildout of the B12 and B13 condo towers--which should take less than two years each--will come sooner than 664 Pacific, adding even more need for school seats and raising more questions about the siting decision.

Locational concerns

Tight site: 664 Pacific is behind construction fence next to
497 Dean; across street, 38 Sixth Avenue rises
As I wrote last September, Community Board 6 wrote to support a middle school at the project site, but urged the SCA "to reconsider the location of that school to one with safer access unhindered by future construction and further removed from the Barclay Center."

The Dean Street Block Association wrote, "With the exception of proximity to transit, B15 falls short of most other building site options east of 6th Avenue depending on the variable assessed."

The questions they raised were legitimate, though school backers believed--and still believe--that proper planning can ameliorate some of the challenges.

Several of those challenges were already glaring. What no one publicly considered at the time, however, is what we now know: the decision to build such a large tower adjacent to an 8-unit residential building has generated litigation about the impact of such construction on the building.

Comments

  1. This is what happens when public oversight over a project as complicated as Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park is neutralized. The timing of the school location-vetting process was almost certainly the developer's to choose. Instead of trying to time the school to the point the school would be needed as a mitigation for elementary students -- the opening of the first residential building in the project -- it appears to have been delayed so that the school could be put in the developer's desired location.

    461 Dean is going to be the first residential building opened in the project. 550 Vanderbilt will be the second. 461 Dean's location isn't great for a school, plus there is the complication the building is modular. But 550 Vanderbilt would have been a good location, I think, and unlike 461 Dean, it was started after the public disclosure in the 2014 SEIS that any elementary students it contributes would cause an adverse impact.

    In other words, I appreciate the point of this article, but it wasn't just B13 the developer was skipping over. It was also 550 Vanderbilt.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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…

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…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.