Skip to main content

A subdued, brief Quality of Life meeting: concerns about buses, satellite trucks; limited project updates

Maybe it's the slowdown in construction, with buildings finishing up but none starting. Or the absence of the three most active civic commenters, as well as other near neighbors. Or a decline in reported disturbing project-related incidents.

At the arena last night, a merchandise bus on the plaza
But last night's Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Quality of Life meeting was the most subdued in memory, lasting just 30 minutes rather than the two hours that are allotted, and with few questions about project operations and impacts, and very little for the project developers and arena operators to present.

When asked, for example, about any pending ownership changes--the Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP) joint venture has put up three building sites for sale--Forest City executive Ashley Cotton said she had no information to share.

Interestingly enough, there were a few more reps of public officials present than typical, unlike at some more heated meetings.

A wall of school buses

The one moment that came close to recalling some previous meetings came when resident Steve Ettlinger, commenting on a recent circus performance at the arena, reported, "I found myself confronted with a yellow wall of school buses, as well as private buses, for several blocks. I seem to remember someone a few years ago saying it wasn’t going to happen… it was as if they were double-parked."

At the arena last night, a merchandise bus on the plaza
Sarah Berlenbach, the new Director of External Affairs for Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (BSE), who had just been introduced, acknowledged that the circus was 15 minutes behind schedule, which disturbed the plan to have bus arrivals staggered the bus arrivals. "There ended up being an onslaught of buses. For that, we deeply apologize."

Thing is, the arena's tight fit, backing into a residential neighborhood, leaves little margin for error. And until and unless arena operators have to pay penalties for such incursions, they will train their spokespeople to "deeply apologize" and earn their keep.

Berlenbach, a Long Island native who most recently worked in the Office of the Vice President, said she was especially excited to work on the reopening of the Nassau Coliseum. (The Mikhail Prokhorov-owned BSE will operate the Coliseum, too.)

Will satellite trucks leave Flatbush?

Satellite truck on Flatbush for ACC tourney
Regina Cahill, a Flatbush Avenue resident and president of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, referenced the TV satellite trucks that now gather in the lay-by lane outside the arena, "which then congests Flatbush Avenues even more."

She asked if there was a plan to move the trucks, perhaps into space associated with the under-construction 38 Sixth, aka B3. Previously, such trucks were in the temporary parking lot east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets, which has since been raised in preparation for construction of 664 Pacific, AKA B15--which has been stalled by a lawsuit.

Scott Solish of Greenland USA said there was no such long-term plan regarding B3. Roland Guevara, BSE's VP for Community Relations, said he'd look into it.

Satellite truck on Flatbush for ACC tourney
Last October, Terence Kelly, then the arena's Community Affairs rep, was asked at a community meeting where the satellite trucks would go.

Given that the parking lot east of Sixth Avenue between Dean and Pacific streets is gone, where does the Barclays Center send satellite TV trucks?

While arena operators work on a long-term solution, Kelly said, "for now we're using Flatbush Avenue." He added that most vehicles go inside, given that there's broadcast capacity inside the building.

As shown in the photos from last night's event--the first, and likely the least impactful of the five-day Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tourney--there clearly was a need for trucks outside. The trucks I saw came from North Carolina.

What happened to the app?

Parking on the Dean Street sidewalk, and "pad" outside arena
Ettlinger also asked about the long-gestating and long-stalled plan by Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, to log quality of life complaints.

"It’s kind of an ongoing conversation that we’ve been having," responded Tobi Jaiyesimi, who started as executive director of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), set up to advise ESD, and now also serves as its Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project manager.

Public sidewalk used for parking last night
"In the early stages, we talked about creating mobile software," Jaiyesimi said. "We kind of bit off more than we can chew as a state agency. Right now there are ongoing changes to the ESD web site that's going to make it more mobile friendly. And so we're still still thinking through it. I'm not going to make the same mistake that we made earlier which was to get very excited and over-promise."

For now, she said, they track posts--now quite infrequent, actually--on Atlantic Yards Watch and appreciate reports and 311 complaint number sent to However, one reason for the app was that Atlantic Yards Watch is not mobile friendly.

And, as I've commented, it would not be difficult for state staffers to track Twitter or Instagram posts, however imperfectly. Other government entities elsewhere do so.

New staffer, AY CDC update

VIP parking on Atlantic Avenue side of arena
ESD executive Marion Philips III introduced Jeremy Cooney, a new member of the Community Relations team, who recently moved from Rochester, where he served as Chief of Staff to the mayor. "He’s a political person, he understands the community," Phillips said, noting that Cooney's predecessor, Nicole Jordan, "has moved on to bigger and better things." (That went unspecified.)

Cooney invited members of the public to reach out and said he aimed to facilitate an open discussion.

Jaiyesimi announced that the next AY CDC meeting would be Tuesday, March 21, at 3 pm, at Long Island University. A formal community notice should emerge today.

Project updates: 461 Dean

461 Dean, fence pulled back
Cotton said "We don’t have a lot of news either," but provided several brief updates.

At 461 Dean, the modular tower, she said, "I’m sure you’re all thrilled to see us move out of the street," referencing the now-gone construction fence. "The public can now walk directly from the building and turn the corner."

"Lots and lots of people live in this building, it’s fully operating, all good news there," Cotton said.

461 Dean, leasing office in retail spot
When asked the percentage of apartments at 461 Dean that had been leased, however, Cotton said, "I don’t know."

Surely her company--which owns 461 Dean outright, as it's the only tower outside the GFCP joint venture--has statistics. As of 2/20/17, a little more than two weeks ago, parent Forest City Realty Trust reported 69 apartments leased, about 19% of the 363-unit building.

Project updates: other towers

The lobby at 461 Dean
Cotton noted that the lottery for the 303 below-market, "affordable" units at 38 Sixth closes March 14, and said, "Please please spread the word." It's the third of three lotteries, with no building with affordable units after that yet launched.

(The issue is less getting 80,000-plus people to apply, as of now, as getting enough low-income units where the need is greatest.)

Cotton also said the sidewalk bridge has been removed at 550 Vanderbilt the condo building, and that, while a sidewalk shed continues at the affordable 535 Carlton, it's been pulled back from Dean Street.

A photo showed the segment of Dean Street east of 535 Carlton still impeded, and Cotton was asked about that.

"There’s still work going on in the open space," she said.

No statistics on move-ins

How many people have moved in overall, Cotton was asked, and how long should it take?

She noted that some buildings have full Temporary Certificates of Occupancy, and others don't, and that a bureaucratic process to approve affordable applicants is time-consuming.

The Flatbush Avenue side of 461 Dean
There's "a steady pace of signing leases," at the affordable buildings, she said, which means they should fill in "a couple of months," while the market-based rentals at 461 Dean is "based on how leasing’s going."

Former footprint tenants

I asked about the plan, announced years ago, to promise once displaced project residents a space in the new buildings, at their former rent. An 11/29/12 Daily News article reported that 17 tenants had taken that offer.

Cotton said she had no information, and invited a follow-up.

Homeless families?

461 Dean, from Fort Greene
I asked about  the de Blasio administration's reported plan to ensure that city-funded affordable units also house the homeless.

"They have contacted us to add that to our buildings, and it's being sorted out," Cotton responded. "Absolutely, we're happy to work with them."

Are they moving in?

"Are homeless families moving in. I have no idea," she responded. "People are moving in. We are complying with the de Blasio administration's request."

More from Barclays

Guevara reminded attendees that Barclays Center Cares aims to include community events on its calendar. He said a community meeting, tentatively scheduled for March 27, would be rescheduled for April.

He also said they started a program called Brooklyn Nets Basketball Academy, offering clinics throughout the tri-state area. "If you want one, please let us know."


Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…

Former ESDC CEO Lago returns to NYC to head City Planning Commission

Carl Weisbrod, Mayor Bill de Blasio's City Planning Commission Chairman and Director of the Department of City Planning, is resigning,

And he's being replaced by Marisa Lago, currently a federal official, but who Atlantic Yards-ologists remember as the short-term Empire State Development Corporation CEO who, in an impolitic but candid 2009 statement, acknowledged that the project would take "decades."

Still, Lago not long after that played the good soldier at a May 2009 Senate oversight hearing, justifying changes in the project but claiming the public benefits remained the same.

By returning to City Planning, Lago will join former ESDC General Counsel Anita Laremont, who after retiring from the state (and taking a pension) got the job with the city.

Back at planning

Lago, a lawyer, in 1983 began work as an aide to City Planning Chairman Herb Sturz, and later served as the General Counsel to the president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Weisbrod himself.