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EB-5 round-up: Trump and Cuomo contributors; the Kushner connect; Staten Island project shaky

EB-5 money is sluicing all around us. And it so often seems sketchy.

USA Today reported, 7/18/17, The developer of a 'China City' in rural New York emerges as a major Trump donor:
WASHINGTON — Sherry Li, a Long Island businesswoman who once proposed a sprawling Chinese Disneyland in the Catskill Mountains, is far from a prominent figure in national politics.
But she and a business associate have just emerged as some of the year’s biggest financial backers of President Trump’s political operation. Late last month, Li and Lianbo Wang, described in federal election filings as her corporate board member, donated a combined $600,000 to Trump Victory, the fundraising committee the president established with the Republican National Committee to attract high-dollar contributors.
Li is now pursuing the development of a higher-education center on the property she controls in rural New York. Her business plans could intersect with the policies of the new Trump administration on everything …

The 2017-18 Nets: "Effort Means Everything" and "We Go Hard"

In 2013, Nets/arena CEO Brett Yormark famously said, "Nothing but a championship is going to be accepted." (That was right about the time Jay-Z was selling his fractional share in the team.)

Yormark soon modulated that to, "We're on a championship journey." They didn't get very far.

Now, as the screenshot below (from the Nets web site) suggests, featuring new Net D'Angelo Russell, "Effort Means Everything," a signal that the Nets are modulating expectations regarding their rebuilding process, which, though finally quite savvy, won't bear fruit for a while.


But "We Go Hard." And that, of course, recalls a lyric from Jay-Z himself, when he claimed, "Now when I bring the Nets, I'm the black Branch Rickey." Oh sure.

Is B12 (condos) ahead of B15 (market-rate rentals, plus school)?

I'm just reading the tea leaves here, but a look at New York State's database of corporations suggests that plans for 615 Dean Street, aka B12, are further ahead than plans for 664 Pacific Street, aka B15, though both buildings have been announced--with renderings--and then delayed.

B12 is supposed to be a condo building, while B15 would contain market-rate rentals, plus a school. Both have 421-a benefits grandfathered in, but the developer could reconfigure the building to use the revised benefits.

The evidence is below. A search on "Pacific Park" turned up four limited liability corporations (LLCs) associated with specific parcels, including the now-constructed 550 Vanderbilt and 535 Carlton, and the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue.

The only other construction site with an LLC is 615 Dean. (Note that 461 Dean, aka B2, was built not by the joint venture behind Pacific Park, Greenland Forest City Partners, but by Forest City itself.)

Neighbors still confounded by (partly) giant fence used to block (for now) nonexistent noise, dust

The July 18 bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting, held at 55 Hanson Place, also aired updates about the murky status of future construction.

The giant green fence on Dean Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues, which encroaches significantly on the travel lane, bunching bikes and vehicles together and further constrained by illegal but unticketed parking, was again a topic for criticism.

As Prospect Heights resident Gib Veconi pointed out, the 16-foot-high fence, twice the height of typical fences and moved into the street to accommodate bracing, were required as mitigations for construction impacts, notably dust and noise.

But there's no construction going on, he said, echoing critiques made by the Dean Street Block Association. "It's not a mitigation, and it really ought to be moved," he said. "It was never anticipated that residents of that area would have to live with an arbitrary street impediment like that without constructi…

Greenland Forest City: mum on new construction; full market-rate building now unlikely; three sites no longer being marketed

Last night's bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting, held at 55 Hanson Place, also aired concerns about the giant green fence and other issues, which I'll cover separately.
Maybe it's the calm before the construction storm. Surely changes in Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park are percolating.
But ever since Forest City Realty Trust, the junior partner in Pacific Park, last November announced that market conditions put development on hold, there hasn't been much positive news.

Last night, a representative of the joint venture Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP) had exactly zero information about any upcoming construction starts, despite announced--but paused--plans for two towers, 664 Pacific (B15) and 615 Dean (B12).
Not only that, Forest City New York's Ashley Cotton expressed doubt that any market-rate building could be built, given the current state of the 421-a tax break, and essentially acknowledged that the joint venture had given up on its…

Greenland Forest City, facing slow condo sales, replaces broker, says it won't cut prices

The Real Deal, in Greenland Forest City swaps Corcoran for Nest Seekers at 550 Vanderbilt, reported yesterday:
After selling only a handful of apartments over the past few months, Greenland Forest City Partners is switching up the marketing team at 550 Vanderbilt Avenue, the first condominium at the Pacific Park megadevelopment in Brooklyn.
The developers have replaced Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group with Nest Seekers International’s Ryan Serhant, they said Tuesday. The 278-unit building — which launched in 2015 — is 65 percent sold.
“We were interested in making a change and trying something new and fresh,” said Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin, who called the split with Corcoran “amicable.”  Note that Corcoran was not quoted regarding that amicability. I hold no brief for Corcoran, but the building is not exactly an easy sell, given the lack of actual open space--despite the hype. 
And Gilmartin said they wouldn't cut prices, because 550 Vanderbilt wasn’t your “standa…

The rats are back in Prospect Heights; the city takes steps to address the rat problem (focusing elsewhere)

The rats are back, in Prospect Heights and in a lot of places around the city, stirred up by construction, attracted by garbage, and resistant to all but the most careful measures.

As the Brooklyn Reader reported 6/22/17, Prospect Heights Residents Complain of Rat Infestation, residents on Dean Street between Sixth and Carlton avenues cited multiple construction projects (including Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park) and inadequate street cleaning.

The city Department of Health said it was "intensifying our efforts in this zone" and observed that property owners--with guidance from the DOH's Rodent Academy--were responsible for their property.

Two blocks away, at St. Marks Avenue between Flatbush and Vanderbilt avenues, longtime resident (and Atlantic Yards foe) Patti Hagan told me "it's just gotten worse and worse every time they dig up the streets and sidewalks for infrastructure." She noted that construction workers leave food trash and that some restaurants…

A softening Brooklyn office market, at least farther from Manhattan

The business cycles continue. In Brooklyn office bust?, subtitled "Eager developers may have gotten ahead of themselves with projects in far-flung nabes," the Real Deal suggests that demand does not meet supply:
Indeed, the numbers show that developers thought demand for hip offices would take off: There are 23 office projects underway in Brooklyn, which will add roughly 6.9 million square feet to the market by 2020, according to Cushman & Wakefield. The amount of new supply accounts for roughly 20 percent of Brooklyn’s 45 million-square-foot market, whereas in Manhattan, new office supply makes up about 7 percent of the market, Colliers International data shows.
And while leasing activity in Brooklyn stood at 430,000 square feet in the first quarter of 2017 — more than double the volume of a year earlier — it couldn’t keep pace with the 900,000 square feet of new space delivered to the market in early 2017, according to CBRE. Especially in neighborhoods like Red Hook, fa…

At tomorrow's Quality of Life meeting, a vague agenda, but some questions

The next periodic Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life Meeting will be held tomorrow, July 18, at 6 pm, at the Shirley Chisholm State Office Building, 55 Hanson Place, 1st Floor Conference Room.

The agenda, at right, is not terribly enlightening, suggesting presentations by Empire State Development and the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation--which are run by the same state staffer--and also by developer Greenland Forest City Partners.

They will answer questions, and perhaps some of these will come up:
how fast are the two rental towers (461 Dean and 535 Carlton) leasing up?how many people are living in (as owners, or renters) in the condo tower 550 Vanderbilt?when will people move into the fourth tower, 38 Sixth (like 535 Carlton, "100% affordable")?what's going on with rats related to this construction site (and others)?if the B6 and B7 sites don't need a platform, how support the adjacent open space?when will 664 Pacific (B15) actually start?wha…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …

From the latest Construction Update: after weekend work, constricted access at Atlantic/Sixth intersection

According to the latest Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Construction Update (bottom), covering the two weeks beginning July 17, was circulated Friday at 4:08 pm by Empire State Development after preparation by Greenland Forest City Partners.

That was more lead time than most Updates, which come after the work has commenced, but in this case it did include mention of changes to the road network that began Friday night, as previously announced, to allow work at the intersection at Atlantic and Sixth avenues.

In fact, the new Update amplifies the previous announcement, adding that "throughout the weekend there will be varying lane closures on Atlantic Avenue to allow for milling and paving of the street."

The Update also announces a change in the road network after the weekend work concludes at 5 am Monday.  Traffic  on Sixth Avenue between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue will remain limited to one northbound lane of traffic only.

Also, the sidewalk on the east side of the Sixth…

Long Island legislators now want renovated Coliseum retrofitted for Islanders

In a rather confounding event yesterday, as Newsday reported, Nassau, Suffolk lawmakers urge Isles to return to Coliseum:
Members of the Nassau and Suffolk legislatures joined forces Friday at the Nassau Coliseum to urge the New York Islanders to return to their former Uniondale home — a move that both the team and the National Hockey League have been reluctant to support.
At a news conference outside the arena, lawmakers and business leaders argued that the Coliseum, which recently underwent a $165 million renovation, could be retrofitted to add back thousands of seats, increase the square footage of the locker rooms and build more luxury boxes and a team store. Remember, they approved the renovation that would downsize the arena and make it unsuitable for major league hockey.

However, as was obvious during the livestreamed press conference I saw, there were no details about how much it would cost, how it might work, and who would pay:
Nassau Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East …

Sheldon Silver's conviction overturned, but he'll be re-tried

Is former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, longtime state powerbroker (and supporter of Forest City) off the hook? Not yet, but things have gotten interesting. The Times reported 7/13/17, Sheldon Silver’s 2015 Corruption Conviction Is Overturned:
A federal appeals court on Thursday overturned the 2015 corruption conviction of Sheldon Silver, once the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, saying the judge’s jury instructions were in error in light of a United States Supreme Court decision that has since narrowed the legal definition of corruption.
Mr. Silver was convicted on charges that he had obtained nearly $4 million in illicit payments in return for taking a series of official actions that benefited others. But in the jury instructions, the judge’s explanation of an official action was too broad, the appeals court found, because it swept in some conduct that the Supreme Court’s decision would now exclude.
Federal prosecutors quickly vowed to retry the case, noting that …

Sweet Polly said to be "in the new Pacific Park neighborhood in Brooklyn" (?)

From Eater, 7/13/17:
Hungry Ghost is opening a fifth coffee shop at 80 Dekalb Avenue in Fort Greene by September. The shop was founded by Murat Uyaroglu, a Turkish immigrant who opened his first shop in 2012 on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and 6th Avenue. He also owns Sweet Polly, a cocktail bar in the new Pacific Park neighborhood in Brooklyn. (Emphasis added)

That's interesting, because Sweet Polly, located at 71 Sixth Avenue more than one block away from the corner of Dean Street and the southernmost construction sites within the irregularly shaped Pacific Park site, generally refers to itself as in Prospect Heights.
Happy #FathersDay from #SweetPolly! #NYC Brooklyn #ProspectHeights#cocktails#finedininghttps://t.co/0UcRJBF140 — Sweet Polly (@SweetPollyNYC) June 18, 2017 And the Hungry Ghost around the corner, little more than 100 feet away, says it's in Prospect Heights.

There's no new neighborhood, despite the best efforts of Pacific Park developer Greenland Forest …

As MSG partners with Newark's Prudential, NYC arena market tightens into face-off with BSE

A 7/11/17 press release from Madison Square Garden, The Madison Square Garden Company and Prudential Center Announce Booking and Marketing Partnership: The Madison Square Garden Company (NYSE:MSG) and Prudential Center announced today a booking and marketing partnership that will bring together MSG's unique and world-renowned expertise with the world-class facilities and location of Prudential Center to attract even more top concerts and attractions to New Jersey. This new agreement harnesses the power of two leading venues in the industry to bring elite entertainment acts to Jersey, as well as solidifying the state as a premier destination for the world's top performers.
...As Prudential Center closes in on its 10th Anniversary in Newark this fall, the mission of the organization remains the same - to unify the people, communities and businesses around the state of New Jersey through the power of sports and entertainment. Ranked among the Top 10 buildings in the United State…

A guesstimate: Site 5 project will feature green glass to promote Greenland

The percolating giant project at Site 5 catercorner to the arena block--two towers and an astonishing shift of bulk, at least as proposed to city officials last year--still has not entered the phase of public review. 
So the project, unofficially suggested at 1.1 million square feet and with the taller tower 785 feet tall, could still change, in configuration and even ownership. (New investors beyond Greenland Forest City Partners, the current joint venture?)  And whatever is proposed, which will include a change in the overall General Project Plan to allow new height and bulk, must go through public review--though that's typically a rubber stamp by Empire State Development.
Maybe some green glass?
But consider: when proposed at least in January 2016, the Site 5 project would have been Brooklyn's tallest building, a prominent place on the skyline for Greenland USA, the US arm of a Shanghai-based developer that calls itself a "skyscraper specialist."
So a tall building…

Forest City to investors: we're doing fine (but let's not focus on Pacific Park + long lease-up)

A new investor presentation (bottom) issued yesterday by Forest City Retail Trust came with a press release:
Forest City Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE: FCEA) today announced that, consistent with the Board of Directors' commitment to strengthen communication with stockholders, and to provide greater insight into strategy, capital allocation, and other topics of interest to investors, the Company has issued a new investor presentation with enhanced disclosure and updates to key performance targets. The investor presentation, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, will be used during a series of investor meetings starting this week, presumably pushing back on a couple of hedge funds that have been criticizing Forest City (and getting some results, including an end to the two-class share structure and family control of the board).

For Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park watchers, it's intriguing to see how the project has diminished as a priority for Forest City, which, after all,…