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Showing posts from November, 2016

461 Dean: the lights are on, but is anyone home?

Last night, I snapped the photos below of 461 Dean Street, the modular rental tower flanking the Barclays Center, which developer Forest City Realty Trust, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, said was open for business. (It's the only Pacific Park residential building not owned by the Greenland Forest City Partners.)

The lights are on, but is anyone home? The evidence isn't definitive, but there are a couple of clues that suggest that many if not all of those apartments are not occupied yet.

First, as noted in the photo at right, shot from Flatbush Avenue near Dean Street, there are no shades or curtains in the apartments with lights on. If people were really living there, well, they'd look more lived-in.

Similarly, there are no shades or curtains in the lower-floor windows shown in the photo directly below, shot from Dean Street near the arena loading dock. Nor are there in the upper floors.

More importantly, those top floors--though its not easy to tell from the…

de Blasio dubiously claims no conflict in asking Rosen for advice on Barclays visit

BdB: “Rosen’s never talked 2me, since I’ve been mayor, about a client” @observer@erinmdurkin@InsideCityHall Really https://t.co/zciaMcdkWfpic.twitter.com/hGeN0AZj51 — Norman Oder (@AYReport) November 29, 2016
He actually said that? @yoavgonen — Norman Oder (@AYReport) November 29, 2016
@AYReport@yoavgonen sure did https://t.co/O3vIBes0zt — Erin Durkin (@erinmdurkin) November 29, 2016
Oh, didn't BdB write "Cc'ing Rosen since he represents Barclay's Center"?
Not "Cc'ing Rosen since he's such a thoughtful dude."@yoavgonenhttps://t.co/AhubbPLmTb — Norman Oder (@AYReport) November 29, 2016
By the way, note the coverage *after* I raised some of the issues (for which I was not credited):
11/25 Post;  11/29 Post; 11/29 Post; 11/29 WSJ; 11/29 Daily News; 11/29 Post editorial.

As Chinese real estate companies reassess strategy in U.S., Greenland somehow claims no Pacific Park delays

The Wall Street Journal today, in Chinese Developers Reassess U.S. Projects, wrote:
Some Chinese real-estate developers are lowering their profit expectations on U.S. projects or shelving them entirely as frothy prices and rocky partnerships force them to rethink their strategies in the American market.
Swelling supply of high-end New York condominiums could result in losses for some Chinese developers, analysts said. A push to partner with U.S. developers on other projects, meanwhile, has brought unexpected legal spats and other delays. Meanwhile, the Chinese government is expected to limit the export of investment capital.
The Pacific Park example
But check out this summary:
In Brooklyn, a deal between Shanghai-based, state-owned conglomerate Greenland Holding Group and Forest City Realty Trust on a 22-acre, 15-building mixed-use project in various stages of construction is facing stiff headwinds.
Forest City earlier this month said it took a $307.6 million impairment charge for the pr…

Next Quality of Life Community Meeting postponed six weeks, to January; Precinct Council meets tonight

With no explanation as to why, Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, yesterday rescheduled the Quality of Life Community Meeting from December 13 to Tuesday, January 24, 2017, six weeks later.

As per usual, the meeting, once known as the Quality of Life Committee and then the Community Update, will take place at 6 pm at:
Shirley Chisholm State Office Building
55 Hanson Place, 1st Floor Conference RoomImpact of delay

The delay means that instead of a six week gap between meetings--the standard has typically been two months, or eight weeks--there will be a 12-week gap, or nearly three months. But the six-week gap was caused by bunching of previous meetings after delays.

This next delay makes for less oversight, and fewer public questions about project operations and impacts. After all, though the state (and developer?) apparently decided unilaterally to postpone the meeting, there are ongoing concerns that neighbors were ready…

With many Brooklynites at risk of homelessness, Atlantic Yards can't help much to "solve Brooklyn's housing crisis"

"58% of all New Yorkers have inadequate savings to pay for expenses like food, housing, and rent in an emergency," declared the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) in a recent report (chart at bottom),  "How is Economic Opportunity Threatened in Your Neighborhood?"

That led to headlines like DNAinfo's Most New Yorkers Are Roughly 1 Paycheck Away From Homelessness: Study and Gothamist's More Than Half Of New Yorkers Are One Paycheck Away From Homelessness, Says Study.

The statistics are compiled by Community District/Community Board. Below are statistics for the four Community Boards in which residents get a preference for 50% of the units in each Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park housing lottery.

First are the statistics for those whose who are at risk of homelessness, then stats indicating the percentage of rent-burdened households:
Community Board 2: 51%/37%Community Board 3: 67%/54%Community Board 6: 48%/35%Community Board 8: 63%/50% N…

How tall is 550 Vanderbilt? 40 feet above what they say (and it's allowed)

Also see coverage regarding 535 Carlton and 461 Dean.

Remember how the condo tower 550 Vanderbilt was described by developer Greenland Forest City Partners as "[n]estled at the intersection of five of the borough’s most desirable neighborhoods"?

I focused on that bizarre geographic description, but project neighbor/opponent Patti Hagan pointed to the bizarreness of using the verb "nestle," which means, among other things, "to settle snugly or comfortably" and "lie in an inconspicuous or sheltered manner."

Well, it's not inconspicuous at all, especially that extra height shown at right, still covered in scaffolding.

Note Prospect Heights resident Gib Veconi's recent tweet:
Mechanical shed not counted in #AtlanticYards design guidelines height limits, but dwarfs #550Vanderbilt. #designfailpic.twitter.com/pkxc6oS3fE — Gib Veconi (@GibVeconi) November 19, 2016 Indeed, while the building is officially 202 feet tall,  the height is defined--as…

How tall is 461 Dean? 37 feet above what they say (and it's allowed)

Also see coverage regarding 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt.

So, is 461 Dean Street (aka B2) really 322 feet tall, as stated in the developer's public presentation (excerpt at right), in Department of Buildings filings, and as listed in the Maximum Heights document prepared by Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project?

Not quite.

The height is defined--as is typical--as the "maximum height of the last occupiable floor." So the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat lists the building height as 359 feet, which is 37 feet taller than the official height. That's 11.5% taller.

Indeed, the DOB says the last residential floor is Floor 32, while Floors 33 and 34 include a fire pump room and a generator room. Plus mechanical equipment on the roof.

According to the project's Design Guidelines, "Rooftop mechanical equipment and elevator and stair bulkheads may exceed the maximum building heights" as long as they're se…

How tall is 535 Carlton? 37 feet above what they say (and it's allowed)

Also see coverage regarding 461 Dean and 550 Vanderbilt.

So, is 535 Carlton (aka B14) really 184 feet tall, as listed in the Maximum Heights document prepared by Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project?

Not quite.

The height is defined--as is typical--as the "maximum height of the last occupiable floor."

That's 181 feet, according to this document filed with the Department of Buildings.

But then add 37 feet for the bulkhead and mechanicals. That goes to 218 feet, or a little more than 20% more than permitted. See screenshots below, and clock to enlarge.

And with the rooftop mechanicals, the 19-story building reaches 221 feet, according to the building permit on the Department of Buildings' web site. That's 20% taller.

According to the project's Design Guidelines, "Rooftop mechanical equipment and elevator and stair bulkheads may exceed the maximum building heights" as long as they're set back from the stre…

From NY Slant: the questionable Cuomo-Mangano relationship

Nick Powell's 11/21/16 essay/report in City & State/NY Slant, INSIDE ANDREW CUOMO’S QUESTIONABLE FRIENDSHIP WITH INDICTED NASSAU COUNTY EXECUTIVE ED MANGANO, deserves a closer look. Writes Powell:
But unlike Cuomo’s relationship with Senate Republicans such as Dean Skelos (convicted last year on corruption charges) and John Flanagan, which he could at least justify under the guise of government functionality, the roots of his friendship with recently indicted Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano are far more complicated and perplexing.
Mangano, along with his wife, Linda, and Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, was charged in October with 13 counts of corruption for allegedly accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for funneling $437,000 in county contracts to a local restaurateur named Harendra Singh....
Mangano’s tenure as county executive has been marred by irresponsible fiscal stewardship, near blatant flouting of campaign finance laws and a pay-for-play contracting…

Flashback 2006: faith in a real-estate executive's promises, on video

I've written about thisbefore, but the more I think about it, this testimony at the 9/18/06 community forum, part of the public input on the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact Statement, speaks both to the project's troubled history as well as the hope people invest in, well, real-estate executives known for extravagant promises.

“I’m a member of BUILD [Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development],” declared Anthony Wright, a working class black guy, heavy-set, with a grey-flecked goatee and white knit cap with “Allah” on it. “I’m also a member of the streets.”

Wright, clean of drugs and alcohol for 16 years, spoke as if at a revival. Work--thanks to BUILD, one of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatories--could make a huge difference.

"Because, see, when you go to one of them minimum-wage jobs and you come home with two hundred and thirty five dollars and the rent is, you know, nine hundred dollars, it just don't add up," Wright dec…

Flashback: touting equitable development, de Blasio suggested Atlantic Yards (!) as template

Well, this tweet sure caught my eye, as Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke 11/1/16 at Crain's 2016 NYC Summit.
De Blasio now using Pacific Park (nee Atlantic Yards) as example of the correct way to build in New York City. — Dana Rubinstein (@danarubinstein) November 1, 2016 That was questionable Nov. 1, and it was even more questionable a few days later after the project's original developer, Forest City Ratner, confessed its investment was essentially worthless.

There's a broader context for de Blasio's remarks, and that too deserves skepticism.

Preparing for growth, but when do 9M people arrive?

The premise of the summit was that New York had better prepare for growth, with housing, transportation, and other infrastructure, and Crain's New York Business on 10/301/16 published 12 firms envision ways for New York to absorb 9 million residents, including:
Repurposing existing track beds to allow light-rail commuter lines and commercial developmentSuspended tram line encirclin…

Orchestrating the grassroots: "agents of the city" document dump shows fevered response to my #DNC2016 op-ed

A pre-Thanksgiving document dump in response to a lawsuit from media outlets shows the consultant BerlinRosen and its co-leader Jonathan Rosen intimately involved with its client Mayor Bill de Blasio, which raises questions because the firm also represents firms doing business with the city, like Forest City Ratner, which then owned a majority share in the Barclays Center operating company.

Notably, the documents (posted in full by NY1) show BerlinRosen and mayoral advisors, in January 2015, feverishly responding to my online op-ed in the New York Times arguing against having the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Brooklyn, drafting op-eds, letters, and tweets from supportive public officials and business people.


"How many immediately surrounding local businesses can we get lte's [Letters to the Editor] in today?" wrote Rosen to colleagues and de Blasio advisors on 1/21/15, the day of my essay. "How many do we have ready to pitch a counter story to ny1 or anothe…

Gilmartin says FCR once (when?) budgeted $12M for new subway entrance, which cost $73M

In Public-private partnerships key to infrastructure overhaul, Real Estate Weekly reported on a recent panel:
Maryanne Gilmartin, whose company Forest City Ratner built Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn and is in the process of building several residential buildings in Pacific Park nearby, admitted that even in the best of circumstances, the process of completing infrastructure in NYC can be an onerous task.
“Infrastructure is an ugly business in this town,” said Gilmartin. “It’s the iceberg; it’s not the 20 percent you see, it’s the 80 percent you don’t.”
When Forest City Ratner was constructing the Barclays Center, part of the plan included renovating a subway entrance in front of the arena, which they had budgeted $12 million for. When it was finally finished, after two years, they had spent $73 million.
“It took us two years to renovate the subway entrance, which is the same two years it took us to build a billion dollar arena,” said Gilmartin. “That’s the problem with infrastru…

FCR says "overall schedule is fixed," but when will project be done: 2025? 2032? 2035?

Now that Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park faces unspecified delays, confessed earlier this month by Forest City Ratner's (FCR) parent Forest City Realty Trust (FCRT), when will the project get done? We don't know.

A Bloomberg article 11/17/16 about how FCR's market-rate rentals at 461 Dean face significant competition noted that parent Forest City Realty Trust took an accounting loss on the delayed Pacific Park project:
"We remain committed to bringing the entire project to completion, but there are a number of existing and near-term market factors that we must consider,” MaryAnne Gilmartin, CEO of Forest City Ratner, said in an e-mailed statement. Those include the new development supply, rising labor costs and the resolution of issues surrounding a New York affordable housing program, she said.
“While the overall schedule is fixed, and we will meet it, there is flexibility in terms of individual buildings, especially given the amount of work underway,” she said. (Emphasi…

From the latest Construction Update: no new work announced

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning Nov. 21 and circulated yesterday at 12:55 pm (late) by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP), there's no new work going on.

That's because nothing in the document is marked with an asterisk or in red, which are used to indicate new work. Still, a comparison between the document and the previous Construction Update does show a few changes.

Sewer work was described as "substantially completed, no upcoming work scheduled during this reporting period."  Weekday and weekend work in the Vanderbilt Yard will not, during this period, require working hours to be extended to 7 pm.

After-hours work

As in previous weeks, there may be Saturday and weekend work. Saturday work could occur at B2 (461 Dean), B3 (38 Sixth), B11 (550 Vanderbilt) , B12 (615 Dean Street), and B14 (535 Carlton Avenue). Second-shift work was not ann…

Though 461 Dean was a financial debacle (@ $539K/unit), Forest City still claims it saved 20% on construction costs

Check out these passages from news about the "opening" of the 363-unit 461 Dean, aka B2. From Architectural Digest, 11/17/16, The World's Tallest Modular Skyscraper Welcomes Its First Residents:
Ninety percent of construction was completed off-site, at the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard. Not only was this welcome news for neighbors, but it also cost developers 20 percent less than building a traditional skyscraper. From Business Insider, 11/16/16, The world's tallest modular apartment building just opened in New York City — take a look inside:
Its developer, Forest City Ratner Companies, built 90% of 461 Dean in its factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. That allowed them to save 20% on construction costs, Forest City's VP of residential development, Adam Greene, tells Business Insider. This is Trump-world fantasy time. The Yormarkian Greene has been peddling that 20% line for a while, and also claiming that Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park buildings are "very low density…

From NY Communities for Change, criticism of de Blasio's not-so-affordable housing (except for AY)

From the New York Times yesterday, Mayor de Blasio’s Political Standing Improves After Trump Win, but Perils Remain:
“We’re still waiting to see whether a Goldman Sachs housing agenda continues at City Hall,” said Jonathan Westin of the advocacy group New York Communities for Change, referring to the city’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, Alicia Glen, who is a former executive at the financial company. “Or whether this populist uprising of Trump and others is going to spur something different.”
Mr. Westin criticized the mayor for counting as affordable a large number of units built during his administration that are too expensive for many of the city’s poorest. “The policies of moderation are failing us,” he said. “I think there’s space for the mayor to move aggressively to the left. If he doesn’t, there’s space on the left for someone to jump in.” Westin's right, except he and his organization have a notable blind spot when it comes to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Par…

Barclays Center is one of "The New Shapes of New York" (but how public is that plaza?)

The New Shapes of New York declares the Times today, in a cover article in the Metropolitan section. From Matt A.V. Chaban's introduction:
Today, apart from the Empire State or Chrysler Building, there are few icons of the skyline. The buildings outlined above, however, may someday be worthy of appearing in a Times Square souvenir snow globe. These are the projects that have captured the imagination of more than a dozen shapers and observers of the city consulted by The New York Times for their perspective on the new standouts.
You may not recognize these silhouettes, but in time, you will.The Barclays Center

From the Times:
The home of the Nets and Islanders was built across the street from Robert Moses’ unrealized Dodgers stadium, though the arena was almost unrealized, too, after years of lawsuits over the use of eminent domain.
Barclays Center has become one of the most important new public spaces and landmarks in the city, part of a larger narrative of the transformation of …