Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Times: Greenland Forest City seeking record rents for Pacific Park retail (next to construction sites)

I don't completely buy the premise of Merchants Wait for the Promise of Vanderbilt Avenue. And Wait., in today's New York Times, which focuses on how delays in the residential buildout of Atlantic Yards have affected merchants who paid high rents on the anticipated influx of many new customers.

The essence:
Retail rents have been rising in anticipation that the project will change the character of the stretch of Vanderbilt that runs from Atlantic Avenue to Grand Army Plaza. Hair salons and hardware stores have been replaced with artisanal bakeries and farm-to-table restaurants. Some storefronts have remained vacant as landlords wait for higher-paying tenants. Even some newer stores have struggled to survive, according to the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and Ms. [Ellen] Fishman, president of the Vanderbilt Avenue Merchants District.
After all, some businesses, like Ample Hills ice cream, are going gangbusters, as noted in the article.

Timing questions

Nor were the new businesses--some newcomers, some not--necessarily wise in responding to landlords who were, well, speculating.

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park was for years expected to move clockwise, with construction on the railyard just east of the arena, then making its way to Vanderbilt Avenue and around to Dean Street. The change in sequence was only disclosed in October 2012.

And, if Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council says “Nobody projected it was going to take 12 years," well, not quite.

Despite the developer's insistent projection of a ten-year buildout (until, well, 2010), Laurie Olin, the original project landscape architect, said back in February 2007 that the project would take 20 years, and Marisa Lago, the head of Empire State Development--the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project--in April 2009 said the project would take "decades."

High rents coming, but what about construction impacts

Perhaps more importantly, Ronda Kaysen's article buries the lead: developer Greenland Forest City Partners, in renting retail space in the new 550 Vanderbilt and 535 Carlton towers, is seeking $100-$125 per square foot, record highs for the neighborhood.

Unmentioned: the buildings are next to unbuilt construction sites, and the open space--not "park space"--around the buildings is by no means finished. So some visitors to those buildings surely will be faced with construction impacts.

Funny: there's no mention of such impacts in this article, though extended fencing outside 550 Vanderbilt skewed the avenue's path and led, some neighbors think, to crashes, one of which totaled the Korean restaurant Bopsot (in the old Le Gamin space on the west side of Vanderbilt a few doors south of Dean) out of business.

I suspect some landlords pushed rents--and some merchants bit--based on Forest City's misleading promises about construction, as well as misleading beliefs--which not all merchants shared--that the Barclays Center would bring new business.

The 615 feint

Even today, the Times reports--surely thanks to the developer--that 615 Dean (aka B12) "broke ground" in December, though the design was unveiled last September, nothing but site clearing has occurred, and the site, along with its neighbor (and also the B4 site next to the arena) was put up for sale in April 2016.

Consider: the 12/21/15 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update indicated:
DOB has issued an excavation permit and a construction fence separating the B12 site from the B11 site is expected to be installed during this reporting period. Soil that has been classified as clean, contaminated or hazardous will be removed from the site as part of the excavation activities and brought to appropriate disposal locations.
The most recent Construction Update, dated 8/29/16, stated:
Site preparation and removals of any above grade structures within the site, stripping of asphalt, and general excavation and removal of top layer of material will continue during this period. Soil that has been classified as clean, contaminated or hazardous will be removed from the site as part of the excavation activities and brought to appropriate disposal locations.
Sound like progress?

Keep in mind that the building is already behind. According to a tentative schedule the developer prepared 8/13/14, the B12 tower was supposed to start construction in July 2015 and open in February 2017.

Instead, as Forest City executive Ashley Cotton said at a public meeting in June, in response to a question from Veconi, "We do not have a revised forecast" about the timing of that building.

But this formulation suggests to Times readers--and, perhaps more importantly, potential rental tenants--that a new building with well-heeled residents (rather than a disruptive construction site) is on its way.

Vanderbilt's previous rise

Had landlords not pushed, actually, they might have done fine, given that, by 2010, as Fishman told Time Out NY, the city's streetscape improvements had benefited the strip: "And on Vanderbilt, we're proud of our little median; we've had trees planted in the center of the avenue, and it's getting greener."

Wasn't Vanderbilt Avenue doing OK even earlier? Well, let's check out the Times travel section from 10/12/08:
After dinner, the action moves to Vanderbilt Avenue, a wide commercial strip that cuts through Prospect Heights and is littered with boisterous bars. Popular with the late-20s professional set is Weather Up (589 Vanderbilt Avenue), an unmarked cocktail bar that serves high-style drinks in a slick, subway tiled room. Try the Bee’s Kiss, a tequila gimlet with a shot of honey ($11).
A friskier crowd gathers a few doors down at Barrette (601 Vanderbilt Avenue; 718-230-5170), a burlesque-inspired bar with red booths and a black-box stage where go-go dancers twirl.
The writer of that article? None other than freelancer Scott Solish, today Greenland's New York front man.

The developer's take

From the Times:
Greenland Forest City is courting smaller, locally owned businesses. Storefronts that open onto a landscaped park space would most likely house a restaurant or cafe. Others could suit a small grocery store, a pet store or a child care center, said Susi Yu, the executive vice president of development at Forest City Ratner, which was the sole developer before it sold a 70 percent stake of the project in 2014 to Greenland USA, a subsidiary of the Chinese company Greenland Group.
“The goal is not to have big-box retail here,” said Scott Solish, manager of development for Greenland USA. “The strategy is to complement what’s here.”
Of course they're not going to have big box retail. But that's not the question. To the issue of whether new retail will focus on well-off shoppers, the developer asserts that's not the case.

“At the end of the day, people want beautiful spaces at affordable prices, whether you’re the top 1 percent of New York or a teacher,” Yu tells the Times. “You want that really fun, cool cafe where you can get a free Wi-Fi and a cup of coffee and you can sit there for three hours.”

C'mon. The low-income residents won't be spending $3 for a coffee from a shop paying $125/square foot. The Times, which describes 535 Carlton as "entirely affordable rentals, with a mix of incomes," fails to point out that 65% of the apartments will go middle-income households, most with six-figure incomes, who can in fact afford $3 cups of coffee.

(What's with the coffee imagery? Consider Forest City's consistent barista reference.)

The untold story: retail at Site 5

Note this line from the article: "The project includes 247,000 square feet of retail. A large portion of that will eventually be housed in an office tower planned for a site opposite the Barclays Center."

Well, not at all. First, that "office tower" hasn't been approved. Second, the two-tower project for Site 5 (currently home to Modell's and P.C. Richard) not only hasn't been approved, it may contain more residential space than office space.

Third, that's a way different plan for retail than ever disclosed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Boymelgreen, Newswalk developer and Forest City ally, settles with AG, barred from condos for 2 years

So the Newswalk developer (who got it cheap)--and flipper of the Ward Bakery and Forest City Ratner ally--maybe wasn't the most honorable businessman. [Was Boymelgreen merely a counterparty, as he subleased property to Forest City? Evidence suggests more overlap of interests, given that Boymelgreen agreed to the lease without contacting landlord Henry Weinstein.]

The New York Times today had a hand-delivered scoop, New York Attorney General Settles Inquiry Into Once-Successful Developer:

The New York attorney general said on Monday that his office had settled a long-running investigation into the business practices of Shaya Boymelgreen, a once-high-flying developer whose collapse during the recession left a trail of irate condominium owners, partners and lenders.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said the agreement would put “an end to Mr. Boymelgreen’s perpetual fraud and abuse in New York City real estate securities.”
Later today, Schneiderman issued a press release, A.G. Schneiderman Announces Settlement Barring Major NYC Developer From Participating In Real Estate Offerings:
NEW YORK—Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with real estate developers Jeshayahu Boymelgreen, Itzhak Katan, and Domenick Tonacchio and several of their entities. The settlement ends the Attorney General’s investigation of potential Martin Act violations at six condominiums in Manhattan and Brooklyn that were developed by Boymelgreen either in partnership with others or on his own. The agreement also bars Boymelgreen from participating in the offer or sale of securities, including condominiums, in or from New York State for a period of two years. The Attorney General’s investigation found numerous violations at the properties, including failure to complete construction projects after selling residential units and failure to remedy alleged construction defects. Should Boymelgreen fail to fulfill his obligations under the settlement, he will be automatically and permanently barred from participating in the offer and sale of securities in or from New York State.
“Today’s settlement should serve as a lesson to other developers who choose to ignore and break the rules,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We will not hesitate to take tough action against unscrupulous individuals who violate the rights of purchasers and tenants. I am pleased that this settlement will return restitution to those who have been harmed by these illegal practices.”
The six properties included in the settlement are:
The Downtown Condominium at 15 Broad Street in Manhattan;
The 20 Pine Condominium in Manhattan;
Beacon Tower at 85 Adams Street in Brooklyn;
The Novo Condominium at 353 Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn;
The Crest Condominium at 302 Second Street in Brooklyn; and
The Newswalk Condominium at 535 Dean Street in Brooklyn.
The various projects involved partnerships, but Boymelgreen and entities he controlled were the sole developers involved in the Newswalk Condominium, according to the AG.

Why the AG's involved

The press release stated:
The Martin Act, New York’s blue sky law, requires offerors of real estate securities, such as cooperatives and condominiums, to disclose the terms of the offering to purchasers in an offering plan. The law also gives the Attorney General broad enforcement powers to compel developers to fulfill their legal obligations and promises made in the offering plan. For example, developers are required to complete construction of their projects by procuring the permanent certificate of occupancy (PCO) promised in the offering plan, and they must set aside money necessary to complete the project. Developers are also required to deliver properties that conform to the New York City Building Code which establishes standards for fire-safe construction and prevention of water leaks.
Regarding Newswalk, the press release steated:
Newswalk is a 137-unit condominium in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Boymelgreen began development of the property in 2000 and all residential units have been sold. Respondent Boymelgreen promised to deliver a building compliant with the New York City Building Code. The Attorney General has collected evidence indicating that the building is lacking fireproofing and suffers from other construction defects. Newswalk unit owners sued respondent Boymelgreen in a private action nine years ago and Boymelgreen has failed to resolve that litigation. Today’s settlement requires Boymelgreen to deposit funds with the Attorney General and, if the Newswalk case is not resolved by a date certain, those funds will be released to the Newswalk homeowners.
Also under the settlement the respondents will pay the Attorney General $100,000 to cover the cost of its investigation.
The Times reported:
The investigation dates to 2013, but condo buyers in Mr. Boymelgreen’s buildings began filing lawsuits as early as 2007. Residents complained of unfinished work, widespread leaks and a lack of fireproofing. At Newswalk, condo owners had to spend an additional $8 million “in order to make the building habitable,” said David L. Berkey, a lawyer for the condo board, which sued Mr. Boymelgreen and his partners.Mr. Berkey said he was hopeful that the attorney general’s settlement would quickly lead to a settlement with his clients. Mr. Boymelgreen’s offering plan for Newswalk in 2002 indicated that the apartments would generate $127 million. “There should be enough proceeds to enable a settlement,” Mr. Berkey said, “unless it’s been lost on other bad deals.”

From the latest Construction Update: Optimum, Verizon, Cablevision work

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday and released today by Empire State Development at 10 am (late) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners, there's more infrastructure work going on.

During this period Optimum and Verizon communications will have crews on Pacific Street between Vanderbilt & Carlton Avenues installing infrastructure for B11 (550 Vanderbilt) and B14 (535 Carlton). Work will involve street excavation within the construction fence perimeter.

At the B14 site, 535 Carlton Avenue, new work includes:
• Sidewalk demolition along Dean Street for foundation waterproofing will commence within the construction fence perimeter.
• Cablevision will install telecom conduits along Vanderbilt Avenue within the construction fence perimeter. 
As stated in the past six construction updates, demolition at Block 1120, the railyard block between Sixth and Carlton avenues, could commence upon receipt of Department of Buildings and Department of Transportation. A community notice will be distributed.

After-hours work

Also, there will be late shift, Saturday, and overnight work. Saturday work is expected at B2 (461 Dean Street), at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, and may occur at other sites, including B3 (38 Sixth Avenue), B11, B12 (615 Dean Street), and B14. Second-shift work also may occur at B2, which is the first tower expected to open.

Weekend electrical utility work will continue at the LIRR rail yard, and demolition of the LIRR tunnel should continue on weekends, continuous from Friday night through Sunday morning.

A glut in Brooklyn rentals means... some impact on both market-rate and (more expensive) affordable AY/PP units

Well, we've heard executives from Forest City Ratner parent Forest City Realty Trust acknowledge that the glut of new market-rate units in areas like Brooklyn say that new units "will take time to absorb."

Still, CEO David LaRue said earlier this month, mixed-used projects such as Pacific Park Brooklyn offer assets and, given that the peak of delivery will be this year, additional supply will be absorbed, and the balance will "return to the norm."

That raises a question, though, about how easy it will be to rent market-rate units in 461 Dean Street, the troubled modular building, as well as higher-end affordable units in both 461 Dean and the "100% affordable" 535 Carlton building, both of which are opening in less than six months.

The overview

In ‘The Market Is Saturated’: Brooklyn’s Rental Boom May Turn Into a Glut, the New York Times's Charles Bagli reports today:
There are 19 residential towers either under construction or recently completed along the 10-block section of Flatbush stretching from Barclays Center north to Myrtle Avenue. When all of them are finished, they will have added more than 6,500 apartments — overwhelmingly rentals — to New York City’s housing stock. Another four buildings on Myrtle Avenue will add almost 1,000 more units.
There are so many new apartments in the neighborhood — roughly one-fifth of all rental units expected to become available in the city in 2016 and 2017, according to Nancy Packes Data Services, a research firm — that the Brooklyn rental market seems poised to zoom right past boom, to glut.
“The market is saturated,” said Sofia Estevez, executive vice president at the developer TF Cornerstone, which will begin offering apartments in a 25-story, 714-unit rental building at 33 Bond Street next spring. “I think it’ll take a couple years to stabilize.”
That means effective rents, with discounts, at $3,375/month for a one-bedroom, which is hardly cheap but below market.

The Pacific Park comparisons
Rents at 535 Carlton

The most expensive affordable units at 535 Carlton--half the building--will rent at $2,680/month for a one-bedroom, with smaller and larger apartments at commensurate rents.

The most expensive affordable apartments at 461 Dean--10% of the building, or 20% of the subsidized units--will rent at $2,504 for a one-bedroom. (Actually, there's a disproportionate number of two-bedroom units in that upper-affordable cohort.)

LaRue said regarding affordable units that demand "is not an issue, so we see that being absorbed very quickly."

I think it may be more complicated, at least for the higher-end affordable units. Still, they haven't started advertising the way the developers of upper-end affordable units at Hunters Point South did.

The bigger question, in my mind, regards the market-rate units at 461 Dean, given the building's history of leaks and mold, as well as its proximity to the Barclays Center (which brings idling trucks and arena crowd surges). Will they rent at the same rates as the other new buildings up Flatbush Avenue?

The larger context and the AY/PP comparison

Bagli quotes appraiser Jonathan J. Miller as saying the supply is skewed to upper-end units of the new supply is coming.”

And Batli gets to affordable units, albeit broadly:
But nearly one-quarter of the apartments — a total of 1,654 units — in the Flatbush corridor are reserved for low-, moderate- and middle-income tenants under the city’s 421-a housing program, which offered developers generous property tax breaks for setting aside 20 percent of a project’s apartments for such tenants.
...Roughly half of the subsidized apartments are connected to the first four buildings now under construction at the vast Pacific Park project next to Barclays Center and just south of Atlantic Terminal. That complex benefits from an enormous public investment.
Some housing advocates, however, say there are still not enough apartments for the low-income tenants being driven out of the area by gentrification. They point out that the developer Forest City Ratner got 80,000 applications for 181 subsidized apartments at 461 Dean Street in Pacific Park.
(Emphasis added)

There's no doubt there are not enough low-income units, but the better context for that is the fact that the "100% affordable" 535 Carlton has 65% middle-income units. Any building with affordable units these days gets huge numbers of applications, because it's simple for those already in the city's Housing Connect system to reapply to the next building for which they might qualify.

The spur to the building?

Bagli writes:
The boom in this corner of Brooklyn, which has one of the biggest transit centers in the city, owes a lot to the city’s 2004 rezoning of the downtown area to encourage the development of office towers and some residential buildings that could compete with Jersey City for back office operations. At first, there was little activity because the city was offering tenants and developers enormous subsidies to rebuild and move to Lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But the creation of an arts district around the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Barclays arena at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, and the adjoining Atlantic Yards development, now known as Pacific Park, inspired interest in the area.
I don't think so. The boom began well before then 2012 opening of the arena, of course, and the arts district didn't really bloom until this decade. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Paper was writing 8/19/06, before Atlantic Yards was even approved:
“We are transferring what we are doing in Manhattan to Brooklyn,” said the New York-based architect [Ismael Leyva], who is the designer of adjacent twin luxury towers on Gold Street, which will stand 40 and 35 stories, and “two or three” other buildings already in the works for the short stretch from the Manhattan Bridge to DeKalb Avenue.
The area was upzoned two years ago to encourage the kind of development that Leyva and others are rushing to begin. As The Brooklyn Papers reported last month, there are at least eight towers — some office buildings, some residential, but none of them inexpensive — in various stages of development.
“This whole area is going to feel like Manhattan,” Leyva said. “The aesthetics are changing. Everything is changing. It’s new.”

Monday, August 29, 2016

Strong hint that developer plans only fractional office space at Site 5 tower project

It was just an aside from Swathi Bonda, Forest City Ratner's Project Manager for the 535 Carlton affordable housing tower, but it struck me as meaningful.

Introducing Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park on 8/17/16 at a session for people interested in affordable housing, she described the overall project as including not only 8 acres of open space and 250,000 square feet of retail but also 1 million square feet of office space.

If so, that suggests that the two-tower project planned for Site 5, now home to P.C. Richard and Modell's, would likely contain mostly apartments, not office space.

That's a big deal.

Keep in mind that a major justification for Greenland Forest City Ratner's plan to move the bulk of the unbuilt B1--the tower planned over the arena plaza--to Site 5 is to create an "iconic" office tower.

However, as I reported in City Limits, plans presented in January to the Department of City Planning indicated four scenarios. In only one scenario would the larger of the two Site 5 towers house office space. In another scenario, there'd be no office space at all.

In two scenarios, the smaller tower would contain some 350,000 square feet of office space. Those seem most likely as of now.

Why do I say that? Because the developer also wants to flip B4, at the northeast corner of the arena block, from residential to office space, and that building is quite large, with more than 750,000 square feet.

Tentative plan; no longer accurate, but at least shows configuration
Not set in stone

Of course, "Projects change, markets change," as former Forest City executive Jim Stuckey once said famously. So this isn't set in stone.

They could get to 1 million square feet of office space, for example, by putting more than 600,000 square feet in the larger of the Site 5 towers and turning B4 into a hybrid building.

And of course, they could increase or decrease the total amount of office space from the 1 million square feet Bonda mentioned.

But until there's evidence to the contrary, this number--and configuration--should be our working assumption. (And not the 336,000 square feet in somewhat stale project press kit.)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

In Greenpoint historic block, echoes of "blighted" Dean Street row houses

Via YIMBY: current view in Greenpoint, house at left
A 7/5/16 post by New York YIMBY, Landmarks Approves Restoration Of 218 Guernsey Street, Greenpoint, discusses the 1870-era home in Greenpoint's historic district.

It includes some great architecture and some buildings that have been modified but are worth saving, because they convey the neighborhood's fabric (and thus were included in the district when it was designated in 1982).

The building at issue is the modest, two-story building at left in the photo at right.

About blight

Note the rather unbecoming wall covering and modest size of the building, which is apparently 28 feet high. It may be built out to less than 60% of the allowable height--remember, the arbitrary blight designation with Atlantic Yards--given that R6B zoning, at least for new buildings, requires a base height before set back between 30 and 40 feet, and the maximum height is 50 feet.

The Floor Area Ratio, or FAR, allows a lot coverage of 2.0; the lots size is unclear. But it seems to me a determined condemnor might find the house blighted and thus get it demolished.

Via YIMBY: renovation plans
Instead, the proposed restoration is at left.

To quote YIMBY's Evan Bindleglass, the architects "have probed the structure to find evidence of its past glory and plan new cement board cladding with wood door and window elements, plus the restoration of the cornice, in wood."

Indeed, they have. It's a nice restoration.

And in Prospect Heights

The cluster of three houses reminded me of the three houses recently demolished on Dean Street east of Sixth Avenue (below), part of a larger group of five houses (further below) demolished to create--initially--a staging area for Atlantic Yards arena block construction and new await a 27-story tower (aka 664 Pacific) with a school in the base. The blight, I wrote in 2006, was arbitrary.
December 2015 photo
August 2006 photo

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Real blight: "War Zone" South Bronx, at the Museum of the City of New York

100 feet of blight on Dean (2 of 5 parcels said to be blighted)
In the memorable words of academic Lynne Sagalyn, blight is "when the fabric of a neighborhood is shot to hell."

And that applies not so much to gentrifying blocks in Prospect Heights--remember the "cappuccino test" at Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street? or the strip of houses magically claimed to be blighted on Dean east of Sixth?--but the South Bronx in the 1970s.

Consider the following photos I shot after visiting the fascinating Museum of the City of New York exhibit, IN THE SOUTH BRONX OF AMERICA: PHOTOGRAPHS BY MEL ROSENTHAL, which continues through 10/16/16.
CAPTION: Deserted, desolated buildings: "War Zone."
The description:
Scenes from the South Bronx, 1976-82.
The 1970s marked the start of a tumultuous period of decline in the South Bronx, brought on by a loss of manufacturing jobs, reductions in municipal services, plummeting property values, a mass exodus of its residents, and rampant arson. Photographer Mel Rosenthal (b. 1940), who grew up in the South Bronx, was determined to give a public face, and a voice, to those who had been left behind by the area’s evolution. In the South Bronx of America features images taken by Rosenthal at the height of the area’s devastation, focusing on the resilient residents who refused to abandon their neighborhoods.
Join the conversation. #MelRosenthal
My photos, of course, don't do full justice to the collection, but I wanted to reproduce the captions. Here's coverage from Untapped Cities, the Times. Here's Rosenthal's 2001 book, In the South Bronx of America.

CAPTION: "Life carries on in the War Zone"

Friday, August 26, 2016

Utility work on Pacific between Sixth/Carlton now may close street to vehicles temporarily

Yesterday came an update to a previous notice about a public infrastructure upgrade on Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton Avenues. It didn't specify what exactly is new, but a comparison between it (below) and the previous notice (further below) shows this text is new:
Expanded construction and underground field conditions may require temporary or intermittent closures to vehicles on Pacific Street between 6th and Carlton Avenues.
In other words, previously, they weren't going to close Pacific to vehicles, and now they might.

It does not, by the way, mention, work on backfilling the Long Island Rail Road retaining wall between Sixth and Carlton, though that was mentioned in the earlier notice and in the two-week Construction Update issued 8/15/16. We'll see next week if it's ongoing.

The previous notice

From the Construction Update:
Backfilling of Pacific Street Retaining Wall is expected to begin during this reporting period. This work will be performed from the sidewalk/parking lane on the north side of Pacific Street nearCarlton Avenue. Parking will be closed off in this area during the work. The work will be coordinated with the utility work being performed on Pacific Street in order to minimize parkingimpacts. The sidewalk on the south side of the street will remain open to pedestrians

Islanders looking into buses to bring fans from Long Island

So, the Islanders are looking into charter buses to bring fans from Long Island to the Barclays Center, some some don't like the Long Island Rail Road, or don't find it accessible or reliable. Except the arena is not exactly set up for large-scale bus use.

Where do they go?

According to the Bus Transportation page on the Barclays Center web site:
Proud Charter Bus Sponsor of Barclays Center
Offering 10% off for all groups traveling to Brooklyn Nets games and Barclays Center events
Visit Best Trails & Travel, call 212-206-6974 or email
To better accommodate your bus pick up and drop off for an event, we strongly recommend registering your bus information in advance.
Please note, due to limited space, all shuttle/bus drivers must be with their vehicles once staged.
And where do vehicles--not just buses--drop off?

As shown in the graphic at right, they're supposed to drop off on the limited area of Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue outside the arena, and pick up just on Flatbush, but, in the past, they've used Sixth Avenue, which is now taken for construction staging.

After the B3 tower (aka 38 Sixth Avenue) opens, more space will open up, but I can't imagine those residents want the sidewalk outside their front door used by arenagoers.

Stay tuned.

As noted below, there's a serious tailgate culture on the LIRR trains to hockey games, so some families might want to avoid that. But there's also traffic on the highways, too.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

SI: "Brooklyn’s roster is the worst kind of depressing"

Sports Illustrated does not think much of the Brooklyn Nets' off-season, in which they tried to rebuild but couldn't snag some middling restricted free agents:
Forget about Jay-Z. Memphis Bleek and Amil wouldn’t be caught dead sitting courtside at a Nets game this year. Brooklyn’s roster is the worst kind of depressing: it’s loaded with veterans but lacking in star power. Simply put, there’s not much to cheer for in the short term and there’s not much to dream about in the long term, either.
Unfortunately, that was going to be the case no matter what new GM Sean Marks did this summer, as Brooklyn’s previous regime will be shouldering the bulk of the blame for the state of the Nets roster for at least the next two or three seasons.
Brooklyn’s guiding principle this off-season seemed to be: “Avoid making the type of big mistakes that got us in this mess in the first place.” As such, the team failed to acquire any players that generate true excitement or optimism. Jeremy Lin is likely to be a fan favorite and he’s set up for success thanks to an established relationship with new Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, but he’s not cut out to be a franchise savior.
Then again, the Nets' "boring" summer got only a C- grade.

And the Knicks...

SI gives even lower marks (D) the Knicks, suggesting that their expensive upgrades, signing former Chicago stars Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, are very high risk:
The only things standing between the Knicks and an “A” for their off-season grade is a time machine and an invincibility cloak. Unfortunately, Phil Jackson’s major additions are living in 2016, rather than 2011, and they are burdened by years of accumulated health concerns.
Sounds a little like the Nets' unsuccessful acquisition of aging Paul Pierce and creaking Kevin Garnett, though the Knicks didn't mortgage the future in the same way.

AY down the memory hole: 22-acre site "eyed for a transformation since the 1950s"

So, amNY tells us Pacific Park in Brooklyn is beginning to take shape after years of setbacks, with a verrry potted history:
The 22-acre area defined by Vanderbilt Avenue, Atlantic Avenue, Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, has been eyed for a transformation since the 1950s. The rail yards, weeds, garbage and a couple of unkempt buildings stood out among the homey, brick town houses and apartments that surrounded the section.
Everything from a new stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers, to apartments for low income New Yorkers were proposed. However, a lack of capital and disagreements from the community, state and other parties kept the neighborhood’s upgrade in limbo.
Um, no. And no. And no. And no.

Video: tractor-trailer blocks Sixth Avenue southbound lane outside B3 for 30 minutes

At about 6:30 am today, an 18 wheeler idled outside of the B3 site at Sixth Avenue near Pacific Street, as shown in the two videos below.

That blocked the southbound lane--already narrowed by the construction fence for the tower-- and posed hazards for drivers and bicyclists in both directions.

As shown in the screenshot at right, northbound traffic was unimpeded, as long as the southbound traffic was paused near Pacific Street.

Otherwise, the constriction forced the southbound vehicles to move into the northbound lane.

Avoiding truck congestion was one of the justifications for the now-abandoned plan to build the entire project via modular construction, wasn't it?

And why shouldn't such incursions generate fines?

In Queens, another developer uses weasel words like "our intention"

One of the lessons from the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park saga is that weasel words like "intend" or "aim" leave those using them a lot of leeway not to fulfill what some hear as promises.

Remember how, when asked in July 2009 if Forest City Ratner expected to ask for more subsidies, executive MaryAnne Gilmartin responded, “Forest City does not expect to ask for more subsidy”?
The Queens Courier yesterday reported, Some say 5Pointz developer broke promise to use all union labor for Long Island City project
Several hundred union workers joined Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) President Gary LaBarbera and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer in Long Island City on Tuesday to rally against developer G&M Realty, which they say broke a promise to use all union labor for an upcoming project.
G&M Realty will turn the former 5Pointz graffiti mecca at 45-46 Davis St. into two residential buildings. According to Van Bramer, owner Jerry Wolkoff pledged to use all union labor when building the towers....
But he didn't. He just left an impression that he would:
In a letter signed by Wolkoff, he wrote, “it is our intention to engage contractors which employ individuals represented by labor unions that are affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York for construction … as well as members of 32BJ operating the building.”
He also wrote that the construction will create 800 “good paying construction jobs” and 200 full-time jobs on site.
In a phone interview, Wolkoff said that he didn’t lie and that he still intends to use some union labor, including 32BJ if the contract is “reasonable.”
The lesson: get it in writing, ironclad.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Forest City selling (its 51% of) Brooklyn malls, other retail properties, to focus on mixed-use projects

After selling a 49% stake in its major Brooklyn malls (and other retail properties) in 2011, and after selling 49% of other malls in 2013, Forest City Realty Trust (formerly Forest City Enterprises) aims to get out of the retail business almost completely.

That means a sale of the majority stake in the Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls opposite the Barclays Center, and a presence in retail limited to mixed-use, "placemaking" projects.

That includes retail in places like the MetroTech office park and includes Pacific Park Brooklyn, so, despite no discussion of the paused proposal to build a glitzy mall at Site 5, currently home to Modell's and P.C. Richard, I assume that's still the plan.

But Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, it seems, remains something of an anomaly.

After all, if Forest City aims "to redeploy the value from our retail portfolio into apartment and office assets that align with our focus on core markets and urban, mixed-use placemaking projects," as CEO David LaRue said in a press release 8/22/16, this is one mixed-use project that they decided was too tricky to pursue on their own.

Instead, they found not merely a 49% investor, as in many other projects, but a new majority investor, in this case Greenland Group, which bought 70% of the project (excepting Forest City's share of the Barclays Center operating company and also the B2 modular tower) going forward.

A big sale

Overall, Forest City cited "ownership interest in 14 regional malls in markets around the country, and 19 specialty retail centers, which are located primarily in New York City.

"Over the past five years, we have made tremendous progress transforming Forest City by focusing on core urban markets and products, reducing complexity, paying down debt, driving operational excellence and converting to REIT status,"  LaRue said in the press release. "As part of this ongoing transformation, and after careful consideration, we have made the decision to explore strategic alternatives for our retail portfolio. We intend to look at a range of options and expect the review process to be concluded by the first quarter of 2017."

The stock market responded positively to the announcement, as can be seen in the screenshot below from Yahoo.

Forest City's New York-area retail properties include Westchester's Ridge Hill, among regional lifestyle centers; Atlantic Center, Atlantic Terminal Mall, Brooklyn Commons, Castle Center, East River Plaza, Harlem Center, Queens Place, Shops at Atlantic Center Site V, Shops at Bruckner Boulevard, Shops at Northern Boulevard, among urban retail; and East River Plaza and Shops at Gun Hill Road, among big box retail (which has overlap).

Drilling down

LaRue, speaking yesterday to investment analysts, said "our strength and competitive advantage in urban, mixed-use placemaking aligns better with apartments, office and amenity retail rather than standalone retail centers or regional malls."

He added that "our pipeline of entitlements concentrated in placemaking projects totals more than 20 million square feet," calling it "a significant growth opportunity."

A good chunk of entitlement is with Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, more than 6 million square feet, but I'm not sure if they count all of it, since they're not the majority owner any more.

Brooklyn questions

Asked if this planned sale of retail replaced the company's (actually, the joint venture's) aim to sell three development sites at Pacific Park (B4, B12, B13), LaRue said no, and provided no details on progress. "We are going to proceed with that discussion and see how that plays out."

The executives were not asked if Forest City still plans residential towers above the Atlantic Center mall, a plan that surfaced in 2006.

I doubt they'd simply give up that entitlement. In fact, in what may be a hint of long-gestating plans, Atlantic Center is cross-listed in Forest City's category of residential retail, which contains this general description:
Forest City develops and manages premier residential communities in major markets across the country. Many of our properties feature convenient retail options for our residents.

Retail progress

The 49% sale of shares in the malls in 2011 to Madison International Realty was an effort to raise cash during a time when Forest City had been slowed, and to a firm whose president said they needed money for Atlantic Yards. The 2013  sale of non-New York retail properties to Australian investor QIC was also seen as raising money for Forest City to move forward.

Forest City CFO Bob O'Brien said that the sale price would be well above the company's basis in cost, so likely the proceeds would be redeployed into mixed-use projects to avoid capital gains and to be tax-efficient.

A shift for Forest City

The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported with some context:
Shedding most of its retail properties would be a landmark shift for Forest City, which opened its first community shopping center in 1948 and its first regional mall in 1962. Today, the company's portfolio includes 14 regional malls across the country and 19 specialty retail properties, including entertainment-and-shopping complexes in New York City. 
....The company, which is in the midst of a headquarters search, doesn't have a retail footprint in Cleveland anymore. Earlier this year, Forest City sold the Avenue at Tower City, its mall in the heart of downtown, to affiliates of Bedrock, a Detroit-based real estate company that's part of the Rock Ventures family of businesses formed by billionaire and Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why were buses idling for hours outside the Barclays Center this morning?

Buses presumably associated with the Barclays Center were idling on Sixth Avenue for hours, according to photos and video. (Note: there's no direct evidence regarding the buses, but it is not unusual for buses associated with the arena to idle nearby, and four days of wrestling events ended last night.)

A video posted by resident Wayne Bailey, shot after he returned from a run, indicates that two buses idled for more than 30 minutes on Sixth Avenue just below Pacific Street.

But the AY Cam trained on Sixth Avenue shows buses idling on Sixth Avenue above Pacific, starting at about 3:20 am, and lasting through about 4:05 am. It shows (the same?) buses idling again on Sixth below Pacific, starting at 4:20 am, and lasting through about 5:45 am.

When I know more, I'll update this. But I have to imagine that, when more people move in nearby, there will be many more complaints.

Yormark: Nets' move delayed by "some nuances in Brooklyn"; team hopes to return to China (EB-5?)

NetsDaily points to an interview in China with Nets/Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark. I'll just point to a couple of things.

"The move [to Brooklyn] was somewhat delayed," Yormark says at about 3:28, "because of the economy and some nuances in Brooklyn." Yeah, right.

Though Yormark does say, of the 2015-16 season, "It candidly was a disappointing season," at about 4:15 he salutes Brooklyn as a "basketball market," and adds, "because we had six years to start seeding the brand, there was incredible anticipation for the arrival of the Brooklyn Nets, and we've been feeding off it ever since."

Except for last year, when gate count fell well under 12,000.

Now, the Nets have "ten-plus new players," he says, which is another reminder that fans are rooting for the clothes.

Return to China?

He talks about using Jeremy Lin to connect with a new fan base--they're branding "BrooklLin," as noted by Nets Daily--and leaves a hint.

At about 12:04, he says, "Hopefully, we'll return here in the fall of 2017 with the NBA to play here in China. Hopefully, we'll continue to fuel the excitement for our team here in China and be considered maybe behind Houston as the second home team of the fans here in China."

If the Nets return, would that be coupled with another effort to recruit immigrant investors to provide cheap financing in exchange for green cards under the sketchy EB-5 program?

After all, original developer (and owner of the arena operating company) Forest City Ratner went to China three times, the latter two in partnership with the Greenland Group, its new joint venture partner/overseer, each time coupled with Nets visits.

My first thought was no. After all, Forest City and Greenland are no longer connected to the arena, so the owner of the team and the arena operating company, Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim, wouldn't have that connection to the Chinese market.

But Atlantic Yards is a "never say never" project." I wouldn't be surprised if they found a way to make that connection. After all, Prokhorov just refinanced the Barclays Center debt to save money

Why wouldn't he want to save money--or split a project with Greenland Forest City Partners to save money jointly?

Basketball is huge in China. It can obscure many ambiguities.

AY down the memory hole: Vanderbilt Yard improvements portrayed with no mention of shrunken railyard, bargain on development rights, and source of funds

Again, Atlantic Yards down the memory hole, with the sunny side of a revised deal gaining notice, while the developer's savings are ignored.

Yesterday amNY published As part of 'West Portal' LIRR project at Vanderbilt Yard in Brooklyn, crews cut through 100-year-old rail tunnel:
Construction crews have punched through a 100-year-old rail tunnel in the LIRR’s Vanderbilt Yard as part of ongoing work to modernize the Brooklyn storage facility.
Underneath congested Downtown Brooklyn streets, the 4-foot-thick concrete wall of the tunnel was blasted open this summer to build a direct train path between the yard and Atlantic Terminal for the first time.
The connection will be known as the “West Portal,” one of several operational enhancements that Greenland Forest City Partners, a joint venture between developers Greenland and Forest City Ratner, are delivering to the yard as part of a real estate deal to build part of its $5 billion Pacific Park project above the facility.
Here's the key section:
That process blocks other trains from using the tunnel for six to eight minutes at a time, which adds up to about two hours of wait time each day, according to the MTA.
The upgrade was a condition in the MTA’s deal to sell the air rights to the developers for Pacific Park, the 22-acre, mixed-use commercial and residential space formerly called “Atlantic Yards” that, after several delays, will be built over the next decade.
Along with the portal, crews will install electric signals to replace manual counterparts. Sewer connections will be built out from one to all nine of the yards’ tracks. The enhancements will also give MTA staff more space to navigate train cars.
(Emphasis added)

An MTA spokeswoman says that improved service will "sift down to benefit the customers."

No doubt.

What's missing

I bet this article was pitched by the public relations firm representing the developer. 

Here's what's missing: the lowered cost of the railyard, the bargain on development rights, and the source of the money for the railyard. 

As I wrote last November, 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.

Also, as I wrote last November, the sale of development rights nearby suggests the value of the Vanderbilt Yard development rights would be worth $948 million before subtracting the additional cost of the new railyard, deck, and transit entrance--plus the benefit to the affordable housing.

But Forest City in 2005 promised $100 million in cash, then renegotiated an extension in 2009, at a gentle interest rate. At the very least, the MTA should have asked for a piece of the potential upside when it had leverage in 2009.

Moreover,  as I reported 5/8/15, Forest City and Greenland raised $249 million in the second round of cheap EB-5 financing from immigrant investors, which can be be used to build that railyard. 
A September 2014 letter) from Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, makes it clear:

Monday, August 22, 2016

About that public plaza? The Barclays Center leveraged "new landmark" to boost revenue "in the casino category"

Let's look carefully at this excerpt (below) from the Preliminary Official Statement for the successful refinancing of the Barclays Center bonds.

Regarding the arena's capacity to raise revenue from sponsorships, consultant from consultant Convention Sport & Leisure (CSL) stated," The Arena leveraged a new landmark (the plaza outside the main entrance) to generate a 51 percent increase in the casino category."

Well, then.

Amenity or advertising opportunity?

As I wrote 3/31/16, one justification from developer Greenland Forest City Partners for moving the bulk of the unbuilt B1 tower across Flatbush Avenue to Site 5, according to Forest City Ratner's Ashley Cotton was, "a key thing we think we can accomplish with this is keeping the plaza permanent open space."
But does it serve the public?
Click to enlarge and see Resorts World Casino NYC Plaza

Though bondholders should be happy about the casino connection, GFCP avoids the name. As I wrote, imagine if Cotton had said "keeping the Resorts World Casino NYC 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. And, as we now know, it's part of a valuable partnership "in the casino category.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

In final part of video interview, Gilmartin says she and Ratner "finish each other's sentences"

OK, there's not much new in the third and final part of the BisnowTV interview with Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin (here are the first and second), but it does fill in a few blanks. I've interpolated a few comments (in italics).

Interviewer Kenneth Weissenberg, partner at EisnerAmper, remains fawning, if not super-prepared.

KW: You started in the city, the City Planning Commission, about 30 years ago? (C'mon, you don't know where she started?)

MAG: I started in economic development, it was close to 30 years ago, I won a fellowship called the Urban Fellows Program,.. I was on my way to law school... I ended up doing public development in the Public Development Corporation, which is now the Economic Development Corporation... and I realized then I had real estate in my veins. Then I realize 'Wow, I could do all this large-scale public private partnership work on the private side,' (for a lot more compensation, and with more power) and that's when I hooked up with Forest City and Bruce Ratner (so, no mention of former PDC boss Jim Stuckey, who earlier went to Forest City, and in 2007 left under a cloud?), and I've been there now 22 years.

The ride to the top

KW: You've risen to the top.... How's that ride been? (Tough question!)

MAG: I stand on the shoulders of giants. I am surrounded by the most talented people in the industry. So it begins and end with the people. (Except sometimes the people do disappear) When I became CEO, I realized I'm really Chief Talent Officer... But working so closely with Bruce Ratner and trying to fill those shoes was a very intimidating moment for me... But of course I knew it was time, and Bruce very badly wanted it to happen. I got a lot of support from the parent company... But people say it takes about 18 months to realize kind of what you've done. One of the things I did to keep my focus on the right stuff was to relocate my family from Scarsdale to Brooklyn.... Moving my family to Brooklyn has been the single best decision I made in this decade.

After that, it would be taking up the helm at Forest City, because I've had such support from Bruce, he's still in the business, although not as active. He's there to be a chairman of the company, and a sounding board for me, on strategy. We do a very good job. We finish each other's sentences, but we approach the world from different places, so it's a great partnership. (Didn't you disagree about whether Frank Gehry should design all of Atlantic Yards?) Again, the people--it really is about the people. (There's been a lot of turnover, as the Real Deal reported.) Development is a place where a lot of really smart people want to be. The business has changed...There's some amazing talent drawn to the work of placemaking. (Is that all they do? What about wrangling governmental assistance?) At Forest City, we are prolific. (Less prolific now: Where are the new development projects?) We have our pick of extraordinary talent. So we've been able to put a lot of amazing collaborative teams together, and that's really what makes me look good, because they are best in class.

Women = diversity

KW: Forest City seems to be unique among some of the real estate firms in New York, which are old boy's clubs, so to speak. There's a lot of diversity (in terms of gender)--has that always been the philosophy that Bruce has brought to the table?

MAG: The best way to prove that diversity is important, because you represent a diverse city, is to have that as part of the DNA of the company. (Let's see a chart of the top officials.) Bruce Ratner runs a meritocracy. So I grew up in a meritocracy, where best man or woman got the job. Because I was able to rise, and younger professionals were able to see that, I think it was somewhat somewhat inspirational for other women in the company to see. You could be married, you could be a mother, and have children, and still rise to a level in a company where you're at the very top making decisions (sometimes, it's been said, cutthroat ones)....Again, we hire on the merits. Women are by the very nature are very good at this business, because it's highly collaborative and it requires doing lots of things and synthesizing.

KW: You have to be creative.

MAG: You have to be creative. I think these are skill sets, it's not that men don't have them, it's that these are skill sets that a lot of women have and are very good at. (But real estate development in New York is about wrangling with government too.) About 65% of our professionals in the development space are women. I do think that's a way to change the industry, because, still, in the development world, it's far too uncommon to find women at the tables where I sit, and certainly at the board level. I also have the good fortune of being on the board of a public company, Jefferies (an investment bank with exactly one female director). That was a great opportunity for me to break into a space where there's a lot of room for improvement on the diversity front... Jeffries, to their credit, saw that.... I've been on my fourth year as a board member, and I enjoy it a lot.

KW: I see it as trend in corporate America to try to bring diversity to their boards, it's a refreshing change. Diversity adds differences of opinion. (Which is why board meetings of parent Forest City Realty Trust, formerly Forest City Enterprises, often sound like family reunions, and activist investors are trying to end the two-class stock structure?)

MAG: Nobody should hire someone that's not qualified or ask a board member to be on a board that's not qualified. I know the company that I run in. I know there are a lot of really capable, really smart women in business in New York... companies can make a change.

Former Nets GM Thorn: Kidd thought Ratner "didn't care about winning," NBA ownership has changed

Well, he's not nearly as bitter as former New Jersey Nets forward Kenyon Martin, but longtime General Manager Rod Thorn has a similar verdict on the ownership of Bruce Ratner, as described in a recent interview with Yahoo columnist Adrian Wojnarowski's Vertical Podcast with Woj: Rod Thorn (h/t NetsDaily).

At about 58 minutes into the podcast, Thorn describes how Kidd claimed a migraine and asked for a trade, as  he "felt that when ownership let Kenyon Martin go... that ownership didn't care about winning."

Thorn didn't agree with Kidd's tactics, but agreed that Kidd made "a lot of us, including me" far more successful than they would have been.

The new ownership

After Mikhail Prokhorov took over ownership in 2010, Thorn could have stayed. He had "no negative thoughts" about Prokhorov or his deputy Dmitry Razumov, with whom he primarily dealt, and the asked for him to stay.

But Thorn thought he'd been there long enough, more than a decade, "through some really, really good times," and needed a fresh start.

 Wojnarowski tried to probe, suggesting that the "business side," notably team/arena CEO Brett Yormark, "had influence," seeking stars, and "that kind of shortcut was never going to work... I'm not sure you wanted to run a team that way... if basketball wasn't steering the ship."

"Well," responded Thorn, "teams have changed. Ownership has changed. Virtually everybody that owns a team now today is a billionaire. There's no more mom and pop. There's no more what we had in the ABA [American Basketball Association] where we were trying to make it every day and what you had at various times in the NBA where we're all in it together.  Now, it's 'we got to do this or else' basically. But it was me."

That's reasonable, just as it's not unlikely that Thorn had his doubts about the new ownership and their assemblage of a not-quite-stellar, bound-for-Brooklyn team anchored by guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, and even more so the trade--a sacrifice--to bring aging Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Brooklyn's boom tempering?

So, when even an industry cheerleader says it, maybe Brooklyn's boom is tailing off. Bisnow reported on a panel, with the headline BROOKLYN DEVELOPERS, FINANCERS ARE GROWING MORE GROUNDED IN THEIR EXPECTATIONS:
Sitting in the newly completed William Vale Hotel, the panelists of Bisnow’s Brooklyn New Frontiers event warned that the increasing difficulty of construction financing and a frustrating government could bring the borough back to earth, but insisted there are still opportunities and areas to take advantage of in the time we have left/

Water connection work today at Pacific between Carlton/Sixth; Monday at Flatbush and Dean (lane closure)

A message below, verbatim, from Pacific Park Brooklyn and Empire State Development about water connection work in two locations.

Note that the Pacific Street work was supposed to start ten days ago and involve noise.

The work at Flatbush and Dean was hinted at in the most recent Construction Update, but there was no mention of a lane closure: "Overnight and daytime water service work at the intersection of Flatbush & Dean Street may occur."

Pacific Street between Carlton & 6th Avenues
Saturday, August 20th, 2016

On Saturday, August 20th as part of the Pacific Park Brooklyn development there will be water connection work on Pacific Street between Carlton & 6th Avenues from 7:00AM - 3:30PM.

During this work the sidewalk on the south side of Pacific Street will remain open to pedestrians.

This work will not require any disruption of water service to residents.

461 Dean Street
Flatbush Avenue at the corner of Dean Street
Monday, August 22, 2016

On Monday, August 22nd as part of the Pacific Park Brooklyn development 461 Dean Street water connection work will require the partial closure of one travel lane on Flatbush Avenue at the corner of Dean Street; the street is expected to remain open to vehicles.

This work is expected to occur during the day time hours, as stipulated by DOT permits.

During this work the pathways will remain open to pedestrians.

This work will not require any disruption of water service to residents along Dean Street or within Barclays Center.

Just another wrestling load-in for the Barclays Center yesterday

Friday, August 19, 2016

Curbed's "A decade on, Brooklyn’s Pacific Park megaproject is finally realized" (my responses + the Gehry switch)

Wondering what my response to the Curbed article, A decade on, Brooklyn’s Pacific Park megaproject is finally realized?

Well, see my Tweetstorm here. And read on.

First, the headline is just a wee bit conclusory. Getting ready to open a couple of buildings does not mean "finally realized." The non-park won't be finished until 2025, at the earliest.

More importantly, the framing of the article is (of course) tilted to the developer, and to a story about architecture, with no effort to ask the neighbors whether they agree the the layout "seems purposeful" or whether buildings fit into the neighborhood. Hint: they don't.

Heck, even I didn't notice on first read that Curbed treats Forest City CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin as steering the development, while she's merely the local front for Greenland Forest City Partners, and a Shanghai-based developer is the final authority.

Credit Curbed with making at least an effort to reach out--I get quoted a couple of times, including "It's hard to look at any piece of the project and ignore the overall taint or the ongoing question marks."

But Curbed didn't look into such kinda crucial things as the affordability of the "affordable housing" or the timing and sufficiency of the open space (which the developer keeps calling a "park").

Curbed's Amy Plitt does take cordial aim at Gilmartin's claim that "we're building a neighborhood," observing that marketing materials have "somewhat groan-inducingly" termed the megaproject "Brooklyn's newest neighborhood."

The Gehry switch

Perhaps the most astonishing paragraph is this, an example of what I call "Atlantic Yards down the memory hole:"
Atlantic Yards was originally planned as a Frank Gehry joint, with the starchitect laying out an expansive master plan for the site and designing the buildings that would rise there, including a preliminary version of the Barclays Center and the 62-story skyscraper dubbed, inexplicably, "Miss Brooklyn". But Gehry’s plan was waylaid by the 2008 recession, and in the aftermath, new architects—SHoP, COOKFOX, Marvel Architects, and Kohn Pederson Fox to date—were brought on to execute the vision for the site. "I certainly don't think I ever believed or supported the notion that Frank Gehry would be the architect of all of the buildings," notes Gilmartin. "It seemed almost antithetical to what a great diverse city and borough Brooklyn is. The diversity of the architecture, the different vocabulary of the buildings was also part of what we were striving for."
Hmmm. Well, Gilmartin certainly didn't make that public at the time. Was she somehow a Forest City Ratner dissident actively protesting her company's unwise policy? Doubtful.

Or has she seen the revisionist light, just as she's claimed that "Atlantic Yards was always a working title"?

Remember, Gehry himself said "Normally I would’ve brought in five other architects, but one of the requirements of this client is that I do it" and that "the client insisted that I do them all."

And, as Matthew Schuerman reported in the 2/26/07 New York Observer, when Laurie Olin, then the project's landscape architect, asserted that various architects "will probably be brought in," Forest City's project point man, Jim Stuckey, denied it: "Frank Gehry will be the architect on every one of them."

Olin also wisely predicted the project would take 20 years.
From the New York Observer