Thursday, September 22, 2016

Forest City's Yu on the 421-a delay, working with Chinese partner, in-house diversity

Yesterday's Commercial Observer interview with Forest City Ratner Pacific Park project director Susi Yu contains some very interesting tidbits, along with her comments about Site 5, which I address separately.

The 421-a delay

Yu wasn't asked about the timetable for the delayed B12 tower, which is one of three development sites for sale. But she said "We actually put the footings in to preserve our 421-a benefit."

"In terms of the rest of the buildout, we have to see how 421-a plays out and in what form it comes back," she added. "It’s impossible to do residential development without it." That sounds like a pretty uncertain schedule.

Working with Greenland

Asked what’s it like to work with joint venture partner/overseer Greenland USA, Yu responded:
China definitely has a different way of working, so I think there’s definitely a little bit of an educational process in learning that in New York you can’t just do everything because you say so. In terms of dealing with regulatory issues, city and state issues, it’s something that they’ve actually learned and are now aware of how it impacts the development.
In other words, Forest City cares more than following the rules than Greenland does? Or is it that Greenland needs to know that you call the governor's office or the mayor's office first.

Timing of openings; affordable applications

While Forest City got 84,000 applications for the 181 affordable units at 461 Dean, aka B2, it got 95,000 applications for the 298 affordable units at 535 Carlton, aka B14.

I think that's a sign that a consistent number of people apply, especially for low- and moderate-income units.

Yu said the first tenants will move in in November, and the market-rate units will be markted in October.

The in-house meritocracy

Asked about the talent pool inside the company, Yu responded:
It’s definitely a meritocracy. Bruce’s appreciation for talent is really based on who you are. What’s interesting to me is that it’s not only women; it’s the diversity of race, ethnicity and cultural backgrounds. If you look at my team we have a Persian, Americans, two Chinese, one American-born South Asian, someone from India, and we have a couple of Jewish men sprinkled in there just for a little flavor. [laughs]
That's diverse, but it's not exactly reflective of, say, the diverse precincts of Brooklyn that came out for the Community Benefits Agreement.

"I would say that we hire based on how hungry people are," Yu said.

Indeed. "We are in some ways government’s worst nightmare, because we push," now CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin once said, "but without it, you do not get things done."

Jacobsian retail?

Yu called the coming retail--12 outlets in the first four buildings--reflective of "the whole Jane Jacobs 'eyes on the street'... I think it will signal the success of what we’re doing once people recognize and appreciate the types of tenants we’re working with."

Yes, the world has learned that street-level retail helps keep a lively, safe streetscape. Except no project from a single developer can represent Jacobsian organic development.

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