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Showing posts from September, 2016

"Brooklyn deserves an iconic office building," says Forest City's Gilmartin (sounds like arena justification)

I somehow didn't get to the Make it In Brooklyn real estate summit held this week by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), but, according to the coverage, Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin left some interesting hints.

As the Brooklyn Eagle reported:
Following [new DBP head Regina] Myer's introduction, MaryAnne Gilmartin of Forest City Ratner and Michael Stern of JDS Development Group sat down with reporter Matt Chaban for a panel discussion on the future of Brooklyn's skyline. The trio covered a number of different topics within that context, including their thoughts that the city will re-institute the 421-a tax program that gives developers tax credits in exchange for including low-income housing in their buildings, and the need for office space in Downtown Brooklyn.
“Brooklyn deserves an iconic office building,” Gilmartin said before she explained that any new office building construction would likely have to involve an anchor-tenant prior to any approval. She…

Yormark says hockey "arrived in Brooklyn" in last year's playoffs

Remember how the puck was supposed to drop last October? Wasn't that the beginning of the New York Islanders' season in Brooklyn?

Now, unsurprisingly, Barclays CEO and Chief Spinmeister Brett Yormark is moving the goalposts.

As Newsday reported, Yormark won't talk about the possibility of the team leaving Brooklyn after the third season, when both the arena and team have an opt-out clause.

Rather, he's focusing on improving the in-game experience, including hiring a full-time ice engineer, and fan accommodation, as the Long Island Rail Road has added trains.

The article closed:
Yormark also said Barclays has seen an uptick in season-ticket sales, primarily from within the five boroughs. He cited John Tavares’ double-overtime goal to defeat the Panthers in the opening round of last year’s playoffs as “one of the signature moments in Barclays Center history.”
“The playoffs represented a moment where we all said hockey has arrived in Brooklyn,” Yormark said. “I think we …

After four years, Barclays Center now on 20th Temporary Certificate of Occupancy

Four years after its opening, the Barclays Center is on its 20th three-month TCO, or Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, issued by the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB). That permits use and occupancy but indicates the building's still not done.

As I wrote in October 2013, an extended TCO is nothing new for sports facilities. Yankee Stadium got its Final Certificate of Occupancy after nearly three years, but Citi Field got its document more than four years after opening. The Barclays Center may push beyond it.

A final Certificate of Occupancy is issued when the completed work matches the submitted plans. Documents confirm the work complies with all applicable laws, all paperwork has been completed, all DOB fees have been paid, all relevant violations have been resolved and all necessary approvals have been received from other City agencies.
What's missing

While the TCO at right indicates that there are "27 outstanding requirements," a look at another page (…

Carlton Avenue residents face bolts falling into front yards, trucks scraping trees on narrow street, paint-like substance drifting in

This the third among articles based on the 9/20/16 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), set up to advise Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park. See also coverage of Site 5 plans and project delays.

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park construction has become hazardous for some of the nearest neighbors.

At the end of the meeting, during the public comment period (at 50:50 of the video below), Elisabeth Martin, who lives in a house on the west side of Carlton Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets, told the board of the persistent issues faced by her and her neighbors.

"This is not a joke, this is not frivolous, this a serious problem," she said, citing impacts from construction of 535 Carlton, a 17-story rental building, across the street.

She hefted the end of a bolt, which she said was among others cut off the 535 Carlton facade, which lacked screening. "I heard something heav…

Yes, three buildings will open soon. But they and others are behind previous tentative schedule.

This the second among articles based on the 9/20/16 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), set up to advise Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park. See also coverage of Site 5 plans.

So, how well is Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park progressing? Yes, three buildings will be opening in next several months, and a fourth is due next year.

But all four of them are well behind the tentative schedule noted in the document below, released in August 2014 by Greenland Forest City Partners. Yes, the schedule was and is subject to change, but there's reason enough to question the progress, including the question marks surrounding the 421-a tax break.

At the meeting, Greenland Forest City Partners' Scott Solish said the B2 tower, 461 Dean Street, would welcome tenants in the fall. Keep in mind that this building broke ground in December 2012, and was originally supposed to take two years.


At 535 Ca…

So, when developers in Syracuse and Buffalo get an RFP crafted for them, there's an indictment

As reported in the 9/23/16 New York Times,  Ex-Cuomo Aides Charged in Federal Corruption Inquiry, the corruption charges against former aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Joseph Percoco and Todd R. Howe, as well as state official Alain Kaloyeros involve the award of “lucrative projects to a few favored developers."

That involved cooked requests for proposals, or RFPs. And that made me think of the way the Metropolitan Transportation Authority 's Vanderbilt Yard, the key property in the Atlantic Yards project site, was awarded to Forest City Ratner.

The comparison isn't exact, but the special treatment in both cases was blatant. As the Times put it regarding the recent case:
In one instance cited in the complaint, prosecutors say Mr. Howe sent an email to Dr. Kaloyeros saying he had “vitals for Buffalo and Syracuse friends.” He was working with a prominent corporate donor, LPCiminelli, a builder based in Buffalo, to create a request for proposals that effectively made LPCiminelli…

Eminent domain valuation that accepted potential rezoning is upheld in appeals court

An important Atlantic Yards eminent domain valuation has just been validated by an appellate court. I wrote in May 2014 how a condemnation judge, in valuing and empty lot off Atlantic Avenue within the project footprint, denied the state's claim that there would have been no rezoning.

Kings County Supreme Court Justice Wayne Saitta agreed with the property owner's argument that the site, without the project, could have become a 12-story hotel, concluding, "Most probably, the entire M1-1 [one-story manufacturing] district in the Atlantic Yards footprint would have been upzoned."

Why is this important? Because Empire State Development Corporation (aka Empire State Development, or ESD), in the 2006 Atlantic Yards environmental review, claimed the project site would not "experience substantial change in the future without the proposed project... due to the existence of the open rail yard and the low-density industrial zoning regulations."

When the very reasonable…

When it comes to the Barclays Center, Zimbalist now switchable as independent academic analyst

It was rather entertaining to read this 9/5/16 Newsday article, by Jim Baumbach, headlined Islanders’ pact gives team a Barclays opt-out after 3 seasons. Not only is it a good analysis of the potential to dissolve the deal between the team and the arena, it contains these paragraphs:
This type of setup is unusual for a professional sports team, experts said. Multiple sports executives and sports business experts said they know of no other sports team among the four major sports that has a deal similar to the Islanders’ in which the arena, acting as the landlord, has control over items such as ticket prices, marketing and even the team’s website. The deal was designed to provide the Islanders short-term financial stability with the $53.5 million annual fee that didn’t exist at Nassau Coliseum but also give the team an exit strategy.
“Charles Wang wanted to keep his options open, but at the same time he wanted to have the best short-term plan that he could, and Bruce Ratner wanted to hav…

From the latest Construction Update: drill track being constructed in railyard

According to the latest two-week Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Monday, Sept. 26 and released Thursday at 2:40 pm (early!) by Empire State Development at 5:43 pm (late) after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners, there's not a lot new planned.

Notably, construction of a new temporary drill track in the center block of the Long Island Rail Road's Vanderbilt Yard, between Sixth and Carlton Avenues, is expected to begin during the two weeks. A drill track allows trains to switch from one track to another.

Also, as previously reported, "sewer refurbishment activities have started on Pacific Street including surveys, cleaning, relining, and manhole grates replacement work."

After-hours work

Also, there may be late shift, Saturday, and overnight work. Saturday work is expected at B2 (461 Dean Street), and may occur at other sites, including B3 (38 Sixth Avenue), B11 (550 Vanderbilt Avenue), B12 (615 Dean…

In 461 Dean market-rate rollout, units start at $2,450, not far off "affordable" rent; where are the kitchens?

The New York Post on 9/22/16 published Everything you need to know about NYC’s best new buildings and, guess what, 461 Dean is among them:
The 32-story 461 Dean — billed as the world’s tallest modular building — will launch leasing in October. The property, located at 461 Dean St. at the edge of Prospect Heights, forms just one part of the 15-building 22-acre Pacific Park Brooklyn megadevelopment. The SHoP Architects-designed structure will fit 363 rental homes, 182 of which are priced at market rate from the mid-$2,000s to the high $4,000s per month. The remainder are reserved for low- or middle-income tenants. No matter the income level, all apartments have washer/dryers, stainless-steel kitchen appliances, custom lacquered cabinetry and quartz counters. The amenity package fits a fitness room with yoga/dance studio, a game room with billiards and video games, an art studio and a roof lounge with a catering kitchen.
Yes, all the units come with washers and dryers, and the two-bedroom…

Forest City executive excited about ambitious Site 5 plan. But ESD officials stonewall AY CDC board members when queried.

This the first among articles based on the 9/20/16 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), set up to advise Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park.

Is the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park developer getting any closer with its ambitious plan for Site 5, long home to the big-box stores Modell's and P.C. Richard, across Flatbush Avenue from the Barclays Center?

If you listened to Empire State Development staff at the AY CDC meeting, not only is everything on hold because of litigation, Forest City Ratner--generally the public-facing part of the Greenland Forest City Partners joint venture--can't even talk to them about Site 5, because a judge has stalled condemnation.

The developer's take

But in yesterday's Commercial Observer interview with Forest City Ratner Project Director Susi Yu, she sounds pretty focused:
The other part that’s exciting for me is working with the state to mov…

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 …

Notice: contractors will deliver electrical equipment to Pacific starting early Friday; one block closed to vehicles on weekend

A Community Notice yesterday from Pacific Park Brooklyn states that, beginning in the early morning hours, Friday, September 23, through Sunday evening September 25, contractors will be delivering and installing new DC substation modular building and transformers for the new Long Island Rail Road yard.

Delivery of the units will occur during the early morning hours Friday. They are said to be stored on Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues--which is already closed off for construction--but the graphic below shows Pacific between Sixth and Carlton avenues closed.

Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton will be closed to vehicular traffic on both Saturday, September 24 and Sunday, September 25 between 7 am and 7 pm.

Vehicular access in and out of the parking garages along Pacific Street will be maintained via Carlton Avenue. See graphic below. (An earlier message said, apparently incorrectly, that the intersection of Pacific Street and 6th Avenue would be closed during …

IDNYC to offer Barclays Center discounts (because every undocumented New Yorker wants $12 beer?)

The New York Daily News reports, in an exclusive (i.e., fed to the paper by the city or the arena):
New Yorkers who have city municipal ID cards are in for some new perks.

Card holders will be able to get a 25% discount at Nets and Islanders game, boxing matches, and certain other events at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, officials are set to announce Wednesday.

...“What we really want this to be is a fixture of how New Yorkers interact with their city,” said Nisha Agarwal, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. This is interesting. The original justification for IDNYC was to get undocumented New Yorkers identification so they could navigate the city. The perks, including free membership in museums on city property, were added to entice more New Yorkers--including me--to get the card.

Now there's a logic that New Yorkers deserve a discount to the Barclays Center, given that city subsidies and other benefits went into it. But I can't imagine that struggling immigr…

Today's Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation meeting: the agenda and the big picture

The not-so-detailed agenda for today's meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation is at right, noting updates on community relations and the project's construction.

The board materials are at bottom, adding only minutes from the previous meeting.

Presumably the board of directors will hear a summary of last week's "Quality of Life Community Update" meeting, in which a representative of Greenland Forest City Partners said, in response to community complaints about idling trucks and other violations, that "compliance is nearly 99%."

As I wrote, that may be so, but let's see the data, and some governmental response.

Given the tight fit of the project in a residential neighborhood, even a relatively small level of non-compliance can pose burdens. Consider the video below from yesterday, just one of many documented incidents.



Former state overseer's comments on the larger picture

We'll see if the board hears any discussion or …

Noisy 24/7 public drainage work on one block of Pacific Street could begin Wednesday, last for a month

A Community Notice issued yesterday by Pacific Park Brooklyn indicates that long-planned "Public Drainage (PD4) Work" on Pacific Street south of the Vanderbilt Yard could begin tomorrow, Wednesday, September 21. It should be noisy and could continue for a month.

No closing date for the work was explicitly stated, but the loss of parking on Pacific Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues should extend until October 20, which suggests the work will go for a month.

From the message:
As part of the Pacific Park Brooklyn development sewer infrastructure upgrade work (relining the sewer) will take place in the sewer main and at manholes located on Pacific Street between Vanderbilt & 6th Avenue.
This work will require the use of multiple types of vehicles, some of which will create noise and steam plumes. In addition to cleaning and vacuuming the sewer main from multiple manhole locations on Pacific Street, the relining operation is required to run continuously for 24 hours to…

When former state overseer of Atlantic Yards came clean: "There really is no accountability"

To observers of Atlantic Yards, Arana Hankin, an aide to Gov. David Paterson who in August 2010 was named the first Project Director for Empire State Development, seemed a good soldier.

After all, Hankin at a public meeting unwisely declared faith in Barclays Center sound control measures—which later required a new green roof to tamp down escaping bass. She enthusiastically helped developer Forest City Ratner raise funds in China via the sketchy EB-5 visa program.

But after Hankin left in 2013 for a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University, her qualms about the project--renamed in 2014 Pacific Park Brooklyn--surfaced in both a public lecture and a published article.

She criticized the absence of accountability, called promises of jobs and housing overblown, and suggested government officials were overmatched by the powerful real estate industry. She said it was difficult to reconcile both the interests of the private developer and community needs.

She also described economic development…

Former state overseer: not-so-affordable Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park "affordable housing" builds distrust

It's notable how many advocates and elected officials have applauded the not-so-affordable subsidized housing that's part of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, calling it, for example, "a model for the shared vision of a New York that works for all."

By contrast, expert analyst Tom Waters of the Community Service Society said, “Those apartments aren’t meeting the most serious needs of the city, at all.” (And the Daily News, anomalously, produced a tough headline, right, at the groundbreaking of 535 Carlton.)

Waters doesn't have a dog in this fight, unlike organizations associated with ACORN, which signed the Affordable Housing Memorandum of Understanding with original developer Forest City Ratner.

Former state overseer gets harsh

A particularly powerful--and previously unknown--criticism comes from a very unexpected source, Arana Hankin, the former project director for Empire State Development.

(As I describe in more detail separately, in the 2013-14 academic year, she …